Northeast Ohio Agricultural Atlas
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The current status and character of agriculture and linked industries in Northeast Ohio is not well documented. It is clear that total farm numbers and acreage are declining, and that a great deal of farmland is being lost to development (over 700,000 acres in Northeast Ohio since 1950). There exists a wide public perception that farming in general is in decline across Northeast Ohio – and lacks economic viability.
Yet, when looking at the total value of “agricultural goods” produced in Ohio, three of the top ten counties are from the Northeast sector of the state. Clearly there are pockets of considerable viability lurking in what the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s statistical profiles refer to as “other crops”. These include nurseries and grapes which generate over $50,000,000 in direct cash receipts for Lake County producers alone. And, one day, they might also include regionally grown and processed fruits, vegetables, and meat which presently contribute an unknown amount – probably less then 1% to an annual regional retail food market of more than $10,000,000,000.
Hence, the key question – addressed by this capacity building initiative – is how do we get from a broad public perception that farming lacks economic viability, that farming and farming related businesses have little or nothing to do with “economic development”, to a place where it is perceived as a potential economic driver for Northeast Ohio? Equally important, how do we get to a place where local farming and food systems are perceived as key shapers of quality-of-place?
The answer surely begins with “the facts” – which we simply do not have. There exists no comprehensive, systematic profile of agriculture in Northeast Ohio (16 County Region) – with its backward and forward linked industries. This project is about changing that – as a necessary prerequisite for any reasonably serious effort to make local farming and food systems a significant part of the region’s future. This Northeast Ohio Ag Atlas will dramatically “jumpstart” that process.
Assessment of agricultural and related data will result in a comprehensive report and atlas that will, in turn, be used to generate smaller reports, and maps and publications for targeted audiences: Farmers, suppliers, buyers, general public, economic developers, and government officials.
This project is funded through the generous support of the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation.