Local Farmland in Danger
As members of a food cooperative, we are concerned with ensuring the future of local farmers, both organic and non-organic. A region with deep farming roots, Bucks County is lucky to still have a number of local farmers and food producers who are able to provide us with seasonal produce, meats, dairy products as well as and other foodstuffs such as honey and herbs. These products are essential in helping us maintain our personal health as well as the health of overall community — not to mention improving the quality of the meals we serve our families.
As both a Doylestown Food Co-op and community member, I would hope that the amount of land in this area dedicated to local agriculture would stabilize and, in time, ideally increase.
However, a local farm in Newtown that is familiar to many of us is in danger of closing. Thorpe’s First Nation Organic Farm is on 145 acres of fertile farmland that has been used for organic farming as well as raising hormone and antibiotic free meats for several generations. The words “First Nation” refer to Mr. Thorpe’s Native American heritage. The Thorpe family holds its Native American traditions dear, and Mr. Thorpe is a distant relative of Jim Thorpe, the great Native American Olympic champion.
If this farm is lost, the community will not only lose a source of healthy foods, but it will also open the land to developers. The land could quickly turn into homes or shopping areas in an already over-developed area. The Thorpe farm is currently in the position of trying to raise funds privately to fend off creditors. Follow the links below to find out how you can help.
Bucks County Farms — a historical perspective
Over the past 50 years, Bucks County has lost over 71 percent of its agricultural land. (Bucks County Agricultural Land Preservation Board, 2005 data). A report from the Bucks County Agricultural Board highlights:
Most of the residential and nonresidential growth has occurred on prime farm land. To emphasize this decline, in 1950, there were 260,100 acres in agricultural production in Bucks County. These acres comprised 67 percent of Bucks County’s total land base. According to the 2002 agricultural Census, the amount of farmland in Bucks County has declined to 76,831 acres. Agriculture as a land use now comprises only 20 percent of Bucks County’s total land base.
There are many reasons why our farmland is decreasing. Farming is not an occupation to which many people aspire — especially on small, privately-owned farms. It is hard work, susceptible to the whims of nature, and often offers minimal financial returns. Arable land is expensive, and many small farmers understandably succumb to the monetary offers of developers who can offer more for the land than its farming will ever return.
Agri-business has turned some small, local farms into the equivalent of boutique hobbies, and the tax breaks associated with them. Over the past decades, some local small farmers have also been the victims of the pitfalls of business everywhere: predatory banking practices, loan upon loan and mortgage upon mortgage, until there is no possibility of financial success. Additionally, while many of the “old timers” knew the land and the farming processes, they struggle to keep up with increasingly complex business practices.
We have all seen housing developments and strip malls spring up where a farm once stood. Some farms seem to vanish overnight, often leaving little or no trace of ever having been there. We are working to support our small, local farmers in every way we can.
If you would like more information on the Thorpe farm and its situation, please check the following links.
Three Revolutions: http://www.threerevolutions.com/campaign/detail/978
When You Wish: http://www.whenyouwish.com/projectdetails/home/1523
*Image credit, Facebook