There has been a lot of discussion over the last several months surrounding the Carroll County Farm.
First let me say there is no movement on the part of the delegation to sell the land, approximately 900 acres. The land will always remain part of the Carroll County Complex.
Secondly, the delegation had requested several years ago, that the commissioners develop a business plan for the farm operation; we are still awaiting the business plan.
Third, what does the farm produce: blueberries, hay, vegetables and wood.
Some of the blueberries and vegetables are sold to the nursing home at market price, but the nursing home has no say over what is produced. The nursing home does not have the storage capacity or the manpower to process them for future use.
The remainder of the fruit and vegetables go to food banks or are sold in farmer’s markets at market rates. The county should not undercut prices local farmers charge. The hay is sold at market rates. The wood was bought at log length, split and sold to the state for campgrounds.
All of these sales accounted for $87,252 in 2015 which was down from $97,210 in 2014 and production has dropped an average of 30 percent each year for the past three years.
The majority of the work on the farm is accomplished by county employees, and the revenue accounting to date has not factored in that operational cost.
It is true that prisoners at the correctional facility do contribute some assistance. On a daily basis, approximately four or five prisoners assist with the work at the county. This includes lawn work as well as assistance with work at the farm.
It should be noted that the average stay for people in the corrections facility is about 40 days. It is very difficult with such short stays to have any consistency.
To the best of my knowledge, there is only one other county that still maintains a farm. Farms closed because they were uneconomical to maintain. Basically, they were costing the taxpayers more than the income they produced.
For those of us over 50 there is a lot of nostalgia for the concept of a county farm. In the past, the county farm was used as a place for underprivileged people to go to obtain work and meals. Times have changed, and this is no longer part of the landscape.
The delegation established a subcommittee to look at alternatives to continuing the current operation, and its first meeting was April 23.
Additionally, there has been a request for proposals out for someone to take over haying on the farm. To date, no one has come forward to bid on the haying. If any person is interested in managing the blueberries, I am certain the county would be interested in listening to a proposal. The same is true for managing the vegetables.
You may have seen in The Conway Daily Sun a letter to the editor on April 26 from Andy Kendall, the executive director of the HP Kendall Foundation. He indicated he would like to meet to explore options for the county farm. A meeting was held with him on April 28 to discuss what the next steps might be.
Although I was unable to attend, three delegation members from the subcommittee and two commissioners were in attendance.
It is my understanding the meeting was very productive.
Mr. Kendall indicated the foundation might be able to fund a feasibility study to explore what alternatives might be available for farming to continue at the county complex.
I am certain the commissioners and the delegation will work together and come up with a viable alternative to a county run farm.
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