Ohio Business Owner: Fracking Stifling Local Food Movement

By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service, 4/6/15
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PHOTO: Sustainable farmers rely on the integrity of the land, soil and water, and many say hydraulic fracturing is compromising the growing local food movement in Ohio. Photo credit: David Foster/Flickr.

PHOTO: Sustainable farmers rely on the integrity of the land, soil and water, and many say hydraulic fracturing is compromising the growing local food movement in Ohio. Photo credit: David Foster/Flickr.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sustainably produced foods are becoming more popular among consumers, but some Ohioans say the state’s fracking boom is stifling the growth of the local food movement.

According to the EPA, dozens of chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing, which some growers say puts air, water and soil at risk for contamination.

The Village Bakery and Café in Athens specializes in locally grown and organic foods, and owner Christine Hughes says some area farmers were unaware of the risks when they agreed to allow oil and gas companies onto their land.

“Landowners were told, ‘Oh no, we don’t use chemicals, it’s all safe,’ so I don’t blame those people for signing up,” says Hughes. “But it has put all these sustainable farms at risk, and the conventional farms as well. The sustainable farmers are more aware of the damage it will do to their reputation.”

According to Hughes, soil and watershed resilience are likely to worsen as drilling continues to expand. A recent study found nearly 11 percent of the more than 19,000 organic farms in the U.S. share a watershed with oil and gas activity, and 30 percent of organic farms will be in the vicinity of a fracking site or injection well in the next decade.

Hughes says many of her restaurant’s suppliers are based in Ohio’s fracking hotbed. The farm that sourced her flour was directly impacted by fracking after an old injection well was re-activated near the land.

“They started bringing in truckloads of radioactive frack waste from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio,” she says. “So they had to shut down their farm and ended up having to sell off their farm and move away and take jobs from their farm.”

Hughes says many other business owners in her community are concerned about the impacts of fracking, and it’s not the answer to the country’s economic, energy and climactic challenges.

“The horse was out of the gate long before the regulations or the science could be shown how dangerous it is,” says Hughes. “At this point a moratorium is really the only responsible thing that we could do.”

Hughes is a member of the Ohio chapter of the American Sustainable Business Council, which is among organizations calling for mandatory, enforceable national standards that will apply to both new and existing gas and oil development.