Saturday, February 24, 2007

A national program crucial to helping farmers get off the pesticide treadmill and implement sustainable agriculture is on the chopping block. Last week, the Senate passed a budgetary "Continuing Resolution" which would immediately eliminate funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) -- the program that provides technical support on how to farm more sustainably!

Take Action Now! Take a few minutes to CALL your Congressional Representative and your Senators to urge USDA to support sustainable farming and fund ATTRA's modest $2.5 million program.

Right now Representative Boozman is circulating a sign-on letter in Congress to save ATTRA; he will take this message—with your Representative's signature— to USDA early the week of February 26. Senators are also sending individual letters to USDA with the same message. Phone calls like yours have protected ATTRA and other sustainable agriculture funding in the past.

Please call today! Help preserve funding for this USDA program to support sustainable farming! It's easy to make a big impact.

Call the congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to the office of your representative and your two senators (this means 3 very quick calls). Ask to speak to the staffer handling appropriations. If he or she is unavailable, leave a message with your name, phone number and the quick message below.

Suggested Message

For your representative: Please ask Congressperson _________ to sign onto Congressman Boozman's letter asking USDA to restore full 2007 funding to the ATTRA sustainable agriculture information service. ATTRA is a national valuable source of information to farmers across the US about how to farm using sustainable practices, and it shouldn't be cut.

(Tell your Representative's staffer that they can contact Maggie Lemmerman at 202-225-4301 in Mr. Boozman's office to sign onto the letter.)

For your senators: Please ask Senator ___________ to send a letter asking USDA to restore full funding to the ATTRA sustainable agriculture information service. ATTRA is a national valuable source of information to farmers across the US about how to farm using sustainable practices, and it shouldn't be cut.

(Tell the staffer for your Senator that John Lewis in Senator Baucus' office (202) 224-2651 can provide information on the wording of the letter that Senator Baucus sent if that's helpful.)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Preserving the Rural Tier by Creating Economic Opportunity: Part 1

Henry S. Cole, Ph.D.

There is a remarkable opportunity in the Prince Georges’ County to create new economic opportunities that will help to preserve the rural character of the county’s rural areas. This approach uses the County’s power to promote agricultural and recreational opportunities for local businesses. Part 1 focuses on farming and the growing importance of locally grown products. Parts 2 and 3 will focus on recreation and renewable energy resources in rural areas.

Lets look 5 and 10 years into the future. What are the trends? Consumer demand for fresh, locally grown food products is on the rise. Secondly, energy prices will continue to rise (don’t take the current dip as anything permanent). This means that the costs of transportation, refrigeration, freezing and processing will all increase. Thus, that apple that comes from Chile or spinach from California will be a lot more expensive than one grown locally. The third mega-trend is that the Washington-Baltimore urban corridor is one of the fastest growing in the nation. This huge market food will get even bigger.

What does all of this mean? It means that open space – now a prime target for homes will become increasingly valuable for its food growing potential. There are enormous opportunities for business and job creation – not only for 500 acre and 100 acre farms, but for 5 and 10 acre farms. In coming issues of this Blog we will provide specific examples of local farming enterprises (both big and small) that point to the future.

What is the County’s Role? The County has already initiated a Purchase Development Rights (PDR) – conservation easement – that will enable farmers to keep farming. Farmers have already lined up and the demand far exceeds the demand at this point. But the program can be expanded. Secondly, the County can begin to act to provide technical assistance, business assistance and above all act as a broker for “locally grown.” Its one thing when a farmer goes to Safeway or Giant – it’s far more effective when the County to negotiate with these companies for dedicated space.

Other areas are moving forward. The Talbot County, MD example is given in a separate article below. The following entry focuses on Michigan’s increasing recognition of the economic importance of its diverse agriculture and locally grown products.

Send your thoughts and examples. If you have a local ag-enterprise let us know about it and we’ll spread the word!

Study Says Buying Local Food Would Boost State Economy
Forecast sees almost 2,000 new jobs, jump in farm profits
By Patty Cantrell and Michael Hamm
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Beulah — Robust efforts to increase sales of fresh, local foods in Michigan could significantly boost employment and personal income across the state, according to a new study by university and nonprofit researchers.

Eat Fresh and Grow Jobs examines six different scenarios in which existing farmers double or triple the amount of fruits and vegetables they sell into fresh produce markets, such as wholesale grocery sales and farmers markets. Using an economic modeling tool customized to Michigan, the study determined the shift could increase net farm income in Michigan by $164 million, or nearly 16 percent. As farm families spend this new income, the study shows they could generate up to 1,889 new jobs across the state and $187 million in new personal income from those jobs.

For the rest of the article: place the cursor anywhere in the MLUI box below and click.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Henry S. Cole, Ph.D.

A proposal for the Rural Tier: This proposal recommends that the County Council and Planning Commission initiate a new public involvement and planning process on issues related to the preservation of the rural tier. This process should be open to all residents of the Rural Tier who wish to participate.

The process should seek to create solutions that advance the diverse needs of our citizens – including economic well-being, adequate public safety, quality education, transportation, and the environment. It is essential to preserve both the rural character of our land and the equity of our citizens in the land that they own.

Incentives and Compensation: The process should focus on incentives rather than draconian restrictions. Such incentives should support agricultural ventures both large and small. The County should expand funding for such programs as PDRs and should take full advantage of Maryland Rural Legacy funding and similar programs. As a basic principal, land owners should be fully compensated for lost development opportunities.

Design Charrettes: To the maximum extent possible the process should aim to create vision and consensus. A good model is the design charrette which has been used effectively in many areas including Prince George’s County. This process should draw on the expertise of other jurisdictions and design professionals that have worked to involve citizens in the planning the future of their communities. The planning process should also incorporate a detailed understanding of the natural resources of the rural tier. There are some areas that are critical and sensitive resources and some areas (e.g. declining developed areas) that may benefit from further development. “One-size fits all” misses the boat. One possibility is to have an involvement process initially for each of the Sections of the Rural Tier (e.g. Croom-Aquasco, Central Patuxent, etc.).This can be followed by meetings that involve representatives from each group to develop consensus but also to note the diverse needs and opportunities in the different sections.

Economic Development and Opportunity: The plan should involve County government’s active role in promoting and expanding economic opportunities which take advantage of the rural tier’s unique assets. Such opportunities include a diverse range of agricultural and recreational enterprises. The plan should be based on a survey of existing and potential opportunities and seek examples of innovations used in other rural areas. Examples include:

· New and attractive farmers markets at key locations
· Working with area supermarkets to buy and feature local produce
· Helping farmers reach markets
· Developing an attractive town center in declining portions of Brandywine
· Low cost food processing facilities available to the public
· Encouraging bed and breakfasts, country inns, pubs
· Tax incentives for start up businesses
· County-assisted agricultural ventures
· Amphibious vehicle tours (such as those in Washington DC)

These are only a few of the many ideas that can emerge once we start to view the Rural Tier in a different way. More housing is not the only form of economic development. Moreover, the profits of local agricultural and recreational ventures remain in the community.

There is clearly a national trend toward locally grown farm products. This trend is likely to accelerate as the cost of fuel, transportation and refrigeration increases as it inevitably will. Prince George’s County and the Rural Tier is in an ideal location to take advantage of this trend with huge potential markets in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area.

Let’s have a fresh start: The recommended process would take the place CB75 and the proposed SMA currently before the Council and the Planning Board respectively. It would benefit from adequate funding and a continuation of th
November 2. 2006 Edition

Talbot County Visioning: Possible Model for our Rural Tier?
Talbot County Extension Service(contact person is Shannon Dill) and
Maryland Sea Grant Extension (contact person is Vicky Carrasco)
along with a host of other partners are
conducting a "Visioning" process
in Talbot County. This is similar in many ways to the design charrette
concept as described Posting 3, bottom of this page. You can get more
details at
The idea is to preserve rural land by promoting agricultural enterprises.
Here are some
examples of economic opportunities for rural areas from this article.

Thank to Joanne Flynn for calling this to our attention.

Friday, November 17, 2006


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For information on Henry S. Cole & Associates