Kip Gardner, owner of Creekview Ridge Farm, purchased 18 acres of land in January 2011 in Carroll County. He currently grows a variety of specialty crops and raises free-range chickens on 10 acres. Kip is working to earn organic certification for his land, which takes three years to fully transition from conventional to organic status.
Kip began his journey knowing he would have to work hard to meet the challenges of starting a small farm business. But he didn't anticipate that nearby fracking and the threat of mandatory pooling could put his land and his organic certification at risk, before he's even had a chance to get started.
Water or soil contamination resulting from fracking could jeopardize Kip’s ability to certify his land. If a farm’s Organic System Plan or soil, product, or tissues samples indicate the presence of prohibited materials, a farmer must address these concerns. In some situations when a prohibited substance is detected, a producer must wait at least three years before the land can return to organic certification. There are more than 500 certified organic operations and nearly 53,000 acres of certified organic pasture and cropland in Ohio, much of it in areas of the state containing shale deposits.
When Kip purchased Creekview Ridge Farm on the edge of the Utica shale formations, few people in Ohio were talking about fracking, but over the last year the industry has exploded and fracking activity in Kip's neigbhorhood has become progressively more noticeable.
In March 2011, a once empty railyard began to fill with trains and trucks, and there was a steady buzz of traffic on the local roadways. Kip watched as truckload after truckload of sand and chemicals traveled to and from fracking locations. April 2011 began with a bang, literally, as the sounds of unannounced explosions and the rumble of bulldozers rang throughout the hills.
Although Kip turned down multiple lease offers, by summer 2012, he learned that nearly all of his neighbors had signed leases, thanks in part to the organizing efforts of a local landowners group, the newly established Associated Landowners of the Ohio Valley.
With so much of the area now leased, Kip is concerned that the state will force him into a lease through a process called "mandatory pooling," which allows oil and gas companies to petition the state for access to unleased land. To petition the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, companies must acquire as little as 65 percent of the land needed for a particular site. Sadly, the process leaves little recourse for landowners to contest and appeal unwanted oil and gas wells or other fracking infrastructure.
"It's disappointing that private corporate interests can trump my rights as a landowner. I'm worried that I'll be forced into an undesirable lease that does not protect my land or my ability to farm in the future," said Kip.
After a stressful year, and at the advice of a lawyer, Kip and his family approached oil and gas companies with an alternative proposal that would have strictly limited industry access to specific areas of his property. Despite his efforts to negotiate, Kip and his attorney have yet to find a company that will agree to his specific terms.
While Kip’s farm was once over a mile and a half away from the closest well, if drilling begins on his neighbor’s farm, fracking would literally be at his back doorstep.
That's why Kip is asking his fellow Ohioans to join him in demanding that Ohio lawmakers give 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.
If enough Ohioans speak up, we can make a difference. Current oil and gas laws prioritize corporate interests over the rights of property owners, the health of Ohioans, and the ability of local governments to make choices about their communities. Help Kip 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208.