Family farm becomes a relic of bye-gone days - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Family farm becomes a relic of bye-gone days

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February 3, 2004

Lee County- Say good-bye to farmland, and hello to development.

Georgia ranks third in the country for the loss of prime farmland. Now, preservationists are trying to help farmers keep their land.

But farmer W. F. Griffin says the decision to sell 192 acres of his 550 acre farm in Lee County was not an easy one. "I chose not to spend 80 hours a week for the rest of my life trying to maintain something that cannot be maintained after I'm gone."

There is no one to take over his farm. "The economic conditions of farming are not something I could encourage my son or other children to want to continue. I don't see that as the best way for them to provide for their family."

And, his profits continue to decline. "Various things cause the price to not give a return on the financial investment that we have or the actual labor we put in."

Now what used to be a peanut field is under construction. "78 homes sites to be developed here." Griffin sold the land to a residential developer who's building a neighborhood of manufactured homes. He's been able to pay off his debt and secure a future for his family.

"It's a lot easier to go in and sell it to residential development, than to find ways to keep it in farmland," said Dougherty County Extension Agent Lenny Wells.

Georgia paved over 184,000 acres of high quality farmland in the 1990's to make way for homes, businesses, and the money they bring.

But Wells says residential growth doesn't always yield big profits for cities. "Residential growth ends up costing a lot of local government more than farm land because of the services." Services such as telephone lines and sewers that these cows don't need.

Wells say losing farmland means losing history. "It's part of our history and culture here. It's what the economy of Southwest Georgia was founded on and still based on today."

Griffin will continue to farm his remaining land for years to come. "It was a way of life that served me well," said Griffin. And, selling part of his land allowed him to continue doing what he loves - farming.

Thursday, the Dougherty County Extension Service is holding a free forum for farmers. State agricultural experts will be on hand to explain how farmers can save their land and still make a profit. The forum starts at 7:00PM at Extension Service on Pine Avenue.

posted at 8:35pm by dave.miller@walb.com