Figuring out how to help farms in Iowa and nationwide survive urban sprawl is the goal of a new Midwestern study. About a third of agricultural production in the U.S. happens in counties that are considered metropolitan, but farms and ranches in those areas are increasingly threatened by population growth and the expansion of cities.
Dick Esseks, a researcher with the University of Nebraska’s Center for Great Plains Studies, says it’s a problem near Omaha, Des Moines, Davenport — and across the country: Esseks says, "Where you’ve got urbanization, the land becomes so valuable, it’s very difficult for farmers to compete when they want to either start up or when they want to expand their operations."
Esseks is part of a research team studying agriculture in urbanizing areas across the United States. Esseks says agriculture can thrive near cities -if- communities plan their growth carefully: Esseks says, "The results are locally produced, nutritious food, jobs related to agriculture, some very pretty landscapes, and also some recreational opportunities."
In Nebraska’s Lancaster County, where the state’s second largest city of Lincoln is located, he predicts farmers will continue growing row crops, especially in floodplain areas that can’t be developed. He says businesses like horse farms and vineyards also have a good shot at being competitive.