Three days of workshops to examine farming issues
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 7, 2014) — A national farmland conference set for October in Lexington will explore the common interests of farmers, food system developers, ag land preservation and sustainability communities. American Farmland Trust, a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on maintaining active agriculture lands, is organizing the Farmland, Food and Livable Communities event.
AFT expects hundreds of farmers, academics, thought leaders, activists, advocates and public policy officials at the Hilton Lexington Downtown for three days of workshops Oct. 20-22 to examine land management and policy, farming finances and opportunities, and methods to preserve agriculture acreage for food production.
Since the 1990s, the United States has been losing an acre a minute of agriculture lands to development for housing, industry, commercial activity and transportation projects, according to AFT President Andrew McElwaine. Kentucky’s 6.7 percent decline in the number of farms from 2007 to 2012 led the nation.
Meanwhile, AFT is a big fan, McElwaine said, of the Purchase of Development Rights program within Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government under which property owners permanently sell the development rights of land in ag usage, especially horse farms. The PDR program is funded half by local government and half by federal government matching funds.
AFT held another of its conventions in Lexington more than a decade ago in connection with the success of its PDR program, which has been active continuously since its launch in 2000. Other states have PDR programs, but most became inactive in the aftermath of the 2008 recession and financial crisis, McElwaine said.
Relaunching PDR efforts nationally will be one goal of the October gathering, he said.
Beyond exploring why and how lands leave ag usage, conference sessions also will explore linkages between AFT’s land preservation goals and broader U.S. trends such as interest in better nutrition, environment stewardship, rising demand for local foods, farm succession planning, urban agriculture and women in agriculture.
“The conversation has expanded over the last 10 years,” McElwaine said.