Conserve active agriculture land in the Rural Service Area while promoting a creative food chain network.
In 2012, Fayette County had 718 farm operations on 114,857 acres, which represented 63.3% of the total land within the county. In comparison, Kentucky’s farm operations made up 51.6% of the state’s total land area, and U.S. farm operations made up 40.5% of total land area in the country. The percentage of total farm acres used for cropland is 35.1%; the remaining acreage is mostly horse farms.
The 2017 Rural Land Management Plan listed 90,774 acres in 1,080 parcels in Agricultural Use in the Rural Service Area, and the Fayette County PVA assessed 1,736 properties in the Rural Service Area as agriculture or “farms.” A report named “Rural Land Use Inventory, Fayette County, Kentucky,” June 2017 by Lynn Roche Phillips, PhD., AICP, and Priyanka Ghosh, PhD., University of Kentucky, Department of Geography, indicates that 108,248 acres of Fayette’s Rural Service Area is used for agriculture. The 2012 Ag Census, which combined the Urban Service Area and Rural Service Areas, reports 718 farms covering 114,857 acres. The farms within the USA are expected to develop eventually.
In 2007, the Ag Census reported that there were 810 farms and 135,969 acres in farms. The 2017 Ag Census results will be released in 2019, and will be informative regarding the acreage of agricultural use by farm type and changes in agricultural land use between 2012 and 2017.
The development of farms within the USA, such as The Summit at Fritz Farm development at the corner of Man O’ War Boulevard and Nicholasville Road, may account for some small portion of this decrease in farms between the 2007 and 2012 Ag Censuses. The Summit at Fritz Farm was formerly the Fritz farm for decades; however, this farm was located inside the Urban Service Area, with high visibility, at one of the busiest intersections (according to trip generation data) in Lexington. The Summit at Fritz Farm is a good example of promoting the food chain network in Lexington. It has one of the five locations of the Lexington Farmers Market, a Whole Foods store with locally grown produce and meat available for sale, and locally owned restaurants featuring locally grown produce and meat.
While equine operations are the dominant farm type in Fayette County, the 2017 Rural Land Use Inventory by Phillips and Ghosh cited above found that there were numerous farm operations that were non-equine related or mixed with equine: 31,424 acres “general agriculture,” 11,898 acres “general agriculture and cattle,” and 27,027 acres “equine farm and general agriculture.” The Kentucky Department of Agriculture Business Directory includes Fayette County farms that are raising goats, free range chickens, eggs, sheep, cattle, grass-fed beef, vegetables, fruit, and vineyards, and other non-food products related such as landscaping plant materials.
The Bluegrass Stockyards’ Lexington location, named the Blue Grass Regional Marketplace, is one of seven live sale locations in their entire Bluegrass Stockyards network, and is a significant contributor to Lexington’s local food chain network. The Lexington market handles $200-$250 million in business annually, selling 100,000-125,000 heads of cattle a year. It accounts for more than any of their other six locations in the region, with a total of about 500,000 heads of cattle sold annually. The Blue Grass Regional Marketplace not only sells cattle; it also has: a farmers market on Saturdays; a restaurant; a butcher counter selling locally sourced beef, pork, lamb, and more; retail stores selling farrier supplies; outfitters; bourbon and horse country items; meeting, event, and classroom spaces; and a museum and learning center. There are a number of other efforts in promoting locally grown food: Farm to School programs, Food Chain, SeedLeaf, Field to Table dinner, and CSA Farm to table. Ashton Wright, Ph.D, Lexington’s Local Food Coordinator, reported that there are at least eight farms offering CSAs in Fayette, and that Lexington has five farmers markets and two Fresh Stop markets. Of the 47 vendors in the Lexington Farmers Market, nine are Fayette County businesses, making products such as cheese, pasta, olive oils, kettle corn, etc. and three of the Fayette County vendors sell produce: sweetcorn, honey, vegetables, and shrimp. The Bluegrass Farmers Market has 27 vendors, with four of them being from Fayette County.