It is getting more and more difficult for small family farms to survive with urban sprawl and new development constantly pushing against their land. The Fields family is currently feeling the pressure first-hand as an upgrade to US 31 and a new sports complex are being planned for the area where their farm is located at 191st in Westfield.
Although they cannot discuss the details of their dealings with the state on the land for the new off ramp from US 31 to 191st street, Rodney Fields was able to tell me that 4 acres of their 20-acre farm including the house and greenhouses, will be affected by the deal. He doesn’t know yet how much of the rest of the farm might be in demand for the sports complex and other businesses that are sure to develop in the area due to the highway upgrade. But they feel that they need to secure land elsewhere to continue their farming operation. (You can find more information about the US 31 upgrade here.) (Details about the new Grand Park Sports Complex can be found on their website here.)
As the situation progresses, the Fields have some land in Madison County in mind and are in the process of securing it. They plan to continue to farm as much of the land in Westfield as they can, but at this point, they don’t know what crops will be planted where for the coming market season. They are trying to keep their options flexible and be ready for any contingency. The Fields family has been living on the current farmland since 1954 and began farming it for market in 1978.
It looks like the Fields will find a way to survive, but many small farms across the country are being forced out of business by similar eminent domain issues and by business and residential development that keeps encroaching on the available land. It is imperative that as informed and caring consumers, we stay aware and support these local farms and the food they grow so that we can continue to have healthy local food to eat as well as a little open land and fresh air in which to grow it.