Can you grow tomatoes in a gas station parking lot?

Last Updated on October 8, 2018 by Diane Hoffmaster

Think About This Thursday
What do you think of when you hear the word ‘farm’? Does it bring to mind a few acres, a tractor and a couple of pigs? Or do you picture thousands of acres of corn, growing in perfect rows, weed free and destined for a feedlot? The face of farming in today’s society has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Small farmers, who’s farms have been passed down in their family through several generations, are going out of business or losing their property to developers.
There has been a movement in recent years by groups like Local Harvest to increase people’s awareness of the importance of eating locally grown foods. However, in order to EAT LOCAL, you must have local farmers. For people who live in urban and suburban areas, this is getting incredibly difficult to find (at least, here in my Atlanta suburb!)  In my area, laws dictate that if I want a chicken, I must own 3 acres of land! Seems silly, right? But it is just one way that government officials are discouraging the ‘grow your own’ mentality.
A couple of years ago, I discovered Stokes Family Farm, one of the last working family farms in Gwinnett County (where I live). I have been buying my beef, pork, and eggs from Anthony ever since. The animals are free roaming and raised as naturally as possible. He offers an amazing selection of salad greens and my kids think it is so cool that they get to eat pansies!
That picture on the right? That is where the pigs used to be! Last year, Anthony lost his battle with Gwinnett County over the rights to HIS LAND. Land that he grew up on as a kid. The county pulled out the eminant domain argument…they wanted to extend a highway right through his property. If you are not familiar with the term eminent domain, it is the right of the government (state, federal, etc) to seize privately owned land without consent. The owner must be compensated monetarily but does NOT have to agree to the sale. It was originally enacted to ensure public safety and prosperity in situations of necessity. Such as: the community needs a hospital or maybe there is a need for a road where there were none currently.
Farther back, past the ‘used to be’ pig pasture was the cow pasture. That is gone too. All so that yet another highway can be built…probably with more strip malls that we do not need. Did we NEED this highway? Atlanta is a maze of highways and roads….you can certainly get everywhere you need to go without having to drive your car through dirt roads or fields. No, I can tell you, we did not NEED another highway! Developer saw a stretch of land that they considered prime real estate and said ‘MINE’…their eye is on the almighty dollar, not the family farm.
I almost cried when I saw this last week. The construction crews have been working on zoning and erosion control for months but the last few weeks they actually started bulldozing and taking down trees. It was quite a shock to see when I went to pick up my eggs last week!
Anthony has taken this all in stride…the county has taken about 1/3 of his property…of course, it was the property that was already pastured and fenced! He is determined to make the best of this situation and is working on environmental improvements for the remaining land, rebuilding fences, and has apparently discovered that the contractor is willing to do whatever he can to preserve the remaining land.
Family farmers tend to be much better stewards of the land than large aggricultural operations. The environmental benefits to eating locally grown food are too numerous to discuss here. But, how can we eat locally if developers insist on buiding up every square inch of this planet with gas stations and nail salons? It is a little hard to grow tomatoes in a gas station parking lot!


  1. Jenny @ Freebie Spot says

    I spent a lot of time at my Grandparents’ farm when I was younger. I would be very upset if something similar happened to their farm even though no one lives there now. 🙁

  2. Island Chick Travels says

    Omg that is awful. The house where I used to live with my grandmother, that came from sitting in the middle of what now is a busy highway. We got a good deal for it but here’s the thing – the damn thing was haunted and probably still is today and I’m thinking maybe the ghosts liked where they were and didn’t want to move????

  3. Kate Dolan says

    This kind of thing is especially hard to take when you see developed property that’s vacant right nearby. I guess it’s often cheaper to start with undeveloped land than to tear down or refurbish an existing unwanted structure. We need tax credits to encourage re-use of already developed property.

  4. terri.forehand says

    I am so sad that this man lost 1/3 of his property. Farm land all over is being turned into subdivisions, strip malls, etc for what. What happens when all the land is used up, where will our food come from years from now. Thanks for sharing.

  5. bigguysmama says

    I think eminent domain is such a crock. The gov’t has this in place so they can do whatever they want. This happened to some friends of mine on a MUCH smaller scale. It was “only” the side of their property which was only an acre.

    I feel so bad for farmers who’s livelihoods are being messed with so badly. What are we going to do as a nation once all the agricultural land is gone? Import it all? That should be cost effective. NOT!

    ~Mimi from Pitch It To Me

  6. Our pastor is also a farmer and we buy eggs, chickens, and honey from him. This year I’m putting in raised beds so I can become less dependent on the grocery store, but it will take some time before the fruit trees we want to plant will be useful.

    Anthony’s story is just one more reason why big government is bad for this country.

  7. So sad…I still don’t understand what this world is coming to..

  8. Closer to Lucy says

    It does make one wonder how small farm families will survive in our ever changing world.

    Another reason why we all need to invest in out Farmer’s markets. I never buy my produce at the store unless I can’t find it at one of my local grower’s selling spots.

    An awful story but one worth being told. Thanks for the share!

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