As new developments consume agricultural lands in the fast-growing South, the cooperatives that cater to farmers feel the pinch. While some can 'retool' by selling pet food and lawn fertilizer, others must close as another casualty to sprawl.
"Farm-supply cooperative Southern States has closed 115 stores in the past six years, many falling victim to the same trend that has forced some of its traditional clients out of business--urban sprawl. Like many farm-supply stores that have changed to sell grass seed and pet food to suburbanites, the chain is dealing with a changing landscape...The loss of stores makes it harder on farmers who remain, forcing them to go farther for supplies."
"Some people call it urban sprawl. Whatever name you want to call it, a lot of land that has been in farm and pasture is now growing houses instead of corn or soybeans or whatever they had been growing before," says company spokesman Jim Erickson.
"U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show there were 2.2 million farms nationwide in 1996, with a total of 958 million acres in production. But by 2005, some 90,000 farms were gone, and about 22 million acres had been taken out of production.
Across the South, some 35,500 farms and 8 million acres of farmland vanished."
"Jimmy Daukas, of the Washington, D.C.-based preservation group American Farmland Trust, says Southern States' dilemma is an unfortunate aspect of urban sprawl.
"This is not that Southern States is being beaten by some other, more efficient or more customer-oriented business," he says. "This is the closing of a market."