What was probably a record-breaking session of Columbia County’s commissioners (5:30-9:00) took place on Thursday, Oct. 15 in Lake City. The agenda item which captured the commissioners’ attention for so long was the chicken farm under construction just outside the city limits of Fort White at the intersection of SW Wilson Springs Road and SW Briarpatch Terrace.
Details of this chicken operation were outlined on this website on Sept. 25 on our post “Chicken Farm Coming to Fort White.” Concerns the nearby residents have are for the flies, smell, traffic, noise, property devaluation and especially the contamination of the nearby Santa Fe River. Twelve chicken houses may house up to a total of 360,000 birds.
Concerns the residents of the region have are these, and the changing lifestyle of rural North Florida where people come from far and wide to enjoy the river, kayaking, swimming, SCUBA diving and camping. Many others flee the cities to make a living or retire in the rural, pastoral environment free from undesirable industry. Unfortunately, once something like this gets a foothold in the area, the tranquil setting will disappear and more like businesses will gravitate to the area.
The commissioners purported to have no knowledge of this on-going agricultural enterprise until OSFR Policy Director Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson first informed them two weeks earlier. Authorities at the Suwannee River Water Management District were aware of the JTC Farms plans, as they issued an ERP. As seen in the video, at that time there was apparently no public disclosure in local newspapers.
If the Fort White city planners had knowledge of the impending enterprise, it seems incredible that they would not try to halt this endeavor. That they would not have knowledge also seems incredible. It was determined that Chair Rusty DePratter, in whose district the factory is being built, did know four to six weeks ago, but considered the news inconsequential.
The meeting lasted so long because many speakers had plenty to say regarding the JTC Farm. Some spoke more than once, many were quite emotional, all were sincere. It seems that more information was provided the commissioners than they could absorb. Provided at this meeting and previously by Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson .
Many OSFR members were present and spoke, among them President Pam Smith, Policy Director Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Board member Rhonda Long, Vice President Pam Blasetti, Volunteer Dennis Shamel, and members Karen Mullins, Norman Beigner, Doug Jipson, Sue Karcher, and Laura Dailey.
If you would like to help protect our river and rural way of life from this potentially polluting industry, please go to this link to donate to the Briarpatch Homeowners Association of Fort White.
Commissioners in general had little sympathy for the concerns of the many speakers with the exception of possible water quality. Commissioners Williams and Frisina both related their strong ties to agriculture, but did not seem to realize this class of large scale CAFO type of animal industry bears little resemblance to the farms of their ancestors. The day of the small farmer who raises most of his food is gone, and has given way to corporations using latest technological efficiency, often extremely inhumane procedures to produce their product. One could say that this is not a farm, it is a factory. It is not agriculture, it is industry.
This video was produced by Doug Jipson of Digitel Productions, Fort White, FL.