Crossposted from Farmland Preservation Report.
Originally written by Bob Heuer
Buy-in from farmland owners on suburbia’s edge can accelerate efforts to create compact, walkable communities in metropolitan regions nationwide. So says Parris Glendening, president of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute. This Washington-based non-profit agency helps local governments implement strategies that target housing and transportation investment near jobs, shops and schools.
Stable urban-edge farm economies will encourage urban reinvestment by acting as a market-based firewall to impede suburbia’s outward march, according to Glendening—a national leader for smart growth during two terms as governor of Maryland, serving from 1995 to 2003.
The Glendening administration created a number of innovative incentives for local governments to encourage more compact patterns of development. Maryland’s Rural Legacy Program, one of Glendening’s most successful programs, has preserved large blocks of agricultural and natural land. Less successful was a law that targeted state assistance to “priority funding areas”—i.e. urbanizing locales that met smart growth criteria.
“I used to say the best tool against sprawl is a prosperous agricultural community,” Gov. Glendening recalls. “People who are opposed to sprawl often don’t understand the importance of farmers remaining economically viable. And the ag community was often hostile towards smart growth. They view their land as their own IRA and want to protect their right to the very logical alternative of selling for development.”
Maryland’s initiatives helped boost local farm economies by expanding both the supply and demand for farmers markets products. Yet, the focus on environmental outcomes like open space and habitat protection sparked a political impasse.