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Fracking and Farmland: Alex Dragovich Tells His Story

Alex Dragovich has owned and operated Mud Run Farm in Stark County since 1980. He raises free-range poultry and grows produce and small grains including spelt, oats, wheat, and buckwheat on 30 acres of land.

Alex strives to give his customers the best products possible, so in 2007, he became certified organic. Alex strives to be a good environmental steward, so he works to reduce the use of fossil fuels on his farm. Though he owns tractors and combines, he rarely uses them and instead relies on his work horses.

Alex, like many organic farmers, is keenly aware of the connection between successful farming and the health of the soil, water, and air. He is concerned that nearby fracking could pollute his land and threaten his way of life. 

Farms Need Clean Water, Air, and Soil

Alex lives in an area of Ohio that is considered to have highly lucrative shale plays. He has been approached several times by companies with lease offers, but each time he has refused to sign a lease.

If fracking were to contaminate Alex's water, air, or soil, it could have a devastating effect on his farm, his organic certification, his property values, and his livestock.

Alex has good reason to be concerned. Fracking waste water can contain radioactive materials, including strontium, uranium, and radon which can contaminate the soil through spills, leaks, blowouts, or during venting and flaring. Heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, barium, and arsenic have been found in soils near gas sites.

Air pollution near fracking sites can also have an impact on a farm's production. For instance, elevated levels of ground level ozone due to natural gas drilling, as has been seen in southwest Wyoming, can lower the crop yields of soybeans, spinach, tomatoes, beans, alfalfa, and other forages. Ozone damages plants by inhibiting photosynthesis and root development.

Despite his concerns about the effects of fracking on his farm's natural resources, oil and gas companies, like Chesapeake Energy, continue to try to persuade him to sign a lease. In the beginning, Alex received offers in the mail, but it didn’t take long before landmen started showing up at his door or calling him nearly every day.  

When approached, Alex said it was as if they expected him to sign immediately. When he inquired about the exact chemicals that would be used and what the possibility of an accident would be, the company representatives brushed his concerns aside. 

The language in the contracts was vague as well, and the legal jargon was hard to understand, so Alex contacted a lawyer. In the end, the lease language could not appease his concerns, and so far has resisted signing a lease.

To Alex, clean water, air, and soil are worth more than gold.

"These are large industrial operations and history tells us that industrial accidents can occur, even when regulated," Alex said, "I'm just not willing to sign away my land and water, and jeopardize the health of my chickens and those that I employ for the promise of some quick cash."

Help Alex protect his farmland from fracking and join him in urging Ohio lawmakers to give the power back to property owners and local governments, so they can make choices about their homes and communities--and not leave those important decisions to large corporations.

What You Can Do 

If enough Ohioians speak up, we can make a difference. Current oil and gas laws prioritize company interests over the rights of property owners, the health of Ohioans, and the ability of local governments to make choices about their communities. Help Alex and other Ohio farmers by taking action today!

Step 1: Send a letter to Governor Kasich and your state legislators. Urge them to establish strong regulations on the fracking industry. 

Step 2: Schedule a meeting with your state legislators.

Step 3: Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and help educate your community and local decision-makers about the risks of fracking.


To learn more about fracking and farmland, click here.

Are you a farmer impacted by fracking that would like to share your story? Click here.

To find out how to get involved and help protect Ohio’s farmland from fracking, contact policy@oeffa.org or (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.


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