City vs. Country Facing Farmers

June 7, 2003
Posted at: 7:00 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- The barrier between "city" and "country" is blurring in Region 8. Like many counties across the nation, when a sizable agricultural economy meets a growing population and industry, there are bound to be some strains.

Craighead County is no different than the national trend. Jonesboro's growth in population and industrial activity is spreading into valuable farm land. That is acreage that county extension agent Eric Grant says has been "used by generations of farmers to make livings with."

"You're seeing tremendous growth around Jonesboro," Craighead County farmer Kevin Hoke said. "And it's not just Jonesboro. It's any urban area where the encroachment is coming in and forcing farmers to move further away from the towns because some of the land is being put into commercial uses."

"Our county is surely affected because of the industrial growth in the eastern part of Jonesboro: Nestle, Frito-Lay, ConAgra," Grant said. "At one time, all the land where they are situated was farm land."

Hoke used to farm land just west of ConAgra foods in what is now Jonesboro's industrial park. He knows about the growing industry all to well.

"In farming we have so many adverse things happening to us," Hoke said. "Urban encroachment is just one of those things that slides in. You only see a 'forty' go this year or in two years. It doesn't happen overnight, but it does cause a tremendous hardship in trying to find more ground to farm."

"(Farmers) are having to move out and get other land to make production with where they can make an income," Grant added.

Despite the problems facing farmers, there is a resolve in the county to allow both the agricultural economy and a growing industry to co-exist here.

"Nobody wants to stop the advancement of industry," Hoke said. "Bringing jobs in helps the whole community. It helps our roads and all of this, so I don't think there's a fix to it, you've just got to be smart enough to buy some of that land that they want."