How Does Urban Sprawl Affect Farms?

We went my home state of Colorado over Christmas.  I had an urge to walk across my alma mater – Colorado State University in Fort Collins.  I hadn’t been on campus in 11 years.  We picked up one of my BFFs near Boulder, CO and made our way northward.  Although I knew that the Front Range has had a huge population growth the past several years, it was shocking to see how many houses, stores, and other buildings were now on what used to be farmland.  My BFF commutes to Downtown Denver daily and she could share a lot about the expansion that has occurred.

Fort Collins to Pueblo is almost solid city.  Although I like to reminisce about how the Front Range looked when there was more open space, I certainly appreciate that people want to live there and this is what we like to refer to as progress.

My husband and I farm in Northeast Kansas, not terribly far from Kansas City.  Our own farm has been impacted by similar expansion from the cities.  It’s more difficult to drive large farm equipment when there are cars whizzing by at high speeds.  Some certainly do not understand why the equipment moves at such slow speeds or why a loaded semi truck can’t stop as quickly as a car.  These are challenges that we and other farms face as the city has grown up around our farm.  In the meantime, we adjust our business to reflect the changing times.

Urban sprawl most certainly occurs as productive farmland is taken out of production to be cemented or asphalted over to build various services for more people.  But how is that land’s production compensated for with an ever-growing population?  There are over 7 billion people in the world today, and projected to have 9 billion by 2050.  With this type of population increase certainly additional farmland will be taken out of production.  There will be less land base to be farmed yet much more food will be needed.

There are a lot of different ways that our farm and other farmers are becoming more efficient in producing food on their farms.  We take the decades of farm education that we have and marry that with new technologies to improve the production on our farm.  We are able to manage things that could not have been understood very too many years ago.  Grid sampling, prescription based farming, GPS, seed spacing and depth, GMO seeds, optimally using inputs, soil health, conservation practices – these are just a few examples of technologies we use on our farm.  All of these things together help us to produce more on less land.  Is it about making a profit?  Absolutely, our farm is a small business that supports three families along with some occasional hired help.  Is our farm also about leaving the land better than it was before?  Yes.  Our family has farmed much of our land for over 50 years (my husband’s grandparents started this farm in the mid 1940’s).  We are raising the 4th generation on the farm right now.

We are not only growing the next generation we are also growing crops that go into the production of food that we and other eat every day.  The farmers that I know don’t take that responsibility lightly.


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