food security

Our Local Food Economy

There is a great guest column in today's N&O by former Congressperson Eva Clayton on the importance and potential of local agriculture.

Here in Orange County, we have made some admirable moves in support of a strong local food economy. In fact, we may have one of the strongest local food networks in the region. Yet there is much more we can do.

One problem that we face is the schizophrenic nature of our collective vision. We craft statements of sustainable economic development  and generally elect leaders who espouse these principles. Yet we continually find ourselves involved in controversies that wouldn't really make the cut if our stated commitment to sustainable economics had an effective filter.

The latest example is UNC's stated goal to site an airport in rural Orange County, land that is most suited for sustainable local food production. To add to the schizophrenia, our progressive County Commissioners have an Economic Development Director, Brad Broadwell, who is an avid and public supporter of UNC's airport proposal.

Importance of Farms in Orange County

The other night District 2 County Commissioner candidate Steve Yuhasz said something to me that I found so incredible that I determined to do a little bit of research on the subject. Steve maintained that in 2006 there were only 3 farms in all of Orange County that claimed more than $20,000 farm income. He said that farming for a living was no longer viable. The implication was that if farming was not economically significant, then the county might as well be subdivided into more neighborhoods and strip malls. Steve said he got that info from something circulated by the Economic Devolpment subcomittee. How scary.

My first thought was how in the world would anybody get such information? Individual and corporate tax returns are considered so private that when the various gov't agencies that report on income sectors make their reports, they go to some lengths to make sure that nothing that could identify a specific person or farm can be gleaned from even a very careful reading of their summaries.


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