Across the Appalachian Basin, the shale gas revolution has revitalized family farms. Responsible natural gas development has added $130,000 in wealth to the average Pennsylvania farm, according to a study by the National Agricultural & Rural Development Policy Center.
Natural gas development in rural areas, such as southwest and northeast Pennsylvania, has allowed countless family farms to continue their long tradition of multi-generational farming.
Due to the relationship between operators like Cabot and farmers who lease their land, these family-run properties now have additional capital to make much-needed equipment investments to improve their operations and ultimately their profitability.
FARM FOCUS: CHARLIE CLARK
A great example is Charlie Clark, a lifelong dairy farmer in Springville, Pa. He has owned and managed his farm since 1984 and has a herd of about 40 cows.
(excerpt from previous blog, Looking Back Moving Forward: Charlie Clark)
A father of four daughters, Charlie has also proudly served as a 4-H leader for many years. His daughters share his love for agriculture and have taken up related studies (the oldest is already working in the field of genetic research). Nonetheless, Charlie’s hard work was not always rewarded.
“The dairy industry as a whole is a roller coaster,” says Charlie. “There are good years and bad years and there seemed to be more bad years than good.”
He cites the arrival of the natural gas industry as the saving grace for many families in the area, including his own. “We wouldn’t have stayed in it this long had there not been an alternative source of income,” adds Charlie.
Newfound royalties allowed the Clarks to build a new barn, upgrade their equipment and invest in better cattle stock.
Charlie explains that better cows require a higher level of maintenance. “The financial gain has enabled us to take better care of them…We farm for fun now.”
The robust economy of Susquehanna County owes much to the gas industry, contends Charlie. He says those not living in communities where gas development is taking place may not grasp the full financial picture. “They don’t understand how far the money trickles out, take for example the county’s annual Harford Fair.”
The Harford Fair dates back to 1858 and is the annual showcase of Susquehanna County agriculture. At the fairgrounds in New Milford, Cabot has helped to fund the construction of new buildings, improve floors and add better drainage in others, and ultimately make the event more attractive to visitors.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Rejuvenated farms have helped Susquehanna County’s 4-H become one of the state’s largest. More than 100 children are showing higher quality pigs and cows, which are then put up for auction. Residents and business owners with more disposable income can offer much higher bids, which allows the 4-H to disburse more and larger scholarships.
Susquehanna County is just one example, similar success stories can be seen in other agricultural-oriented counties where gas development is taking place (Bradford, Greene, Tioga, Westmoreland, etc.).
THE BIG PICTURE
Natural gas development benefits all 63,000 Pennsylvania farming families. And of course, natural gas development also benefits the agriculture industry through lower energy costs, stable fuel prices and more affordable fertilizers.
Let’s not forget the role natural gas has in bringing the crops, dairy products, meat and other goods that farmers work hard to grow and deliver to market. Natural gas fuels food processors and powers greenhouses across Pennsylvania and the country. Trucks fueled by natural gas carry the products to grocery stores. Each store then requires electricity to refrigerate vegetables, dairy products, meat and more – electricity made possible by natural gas-fueled power plants.
The strong connection between agriculture and natural gas is undeniable and a great American success story.
Cabot is committed to strengthening the communities where we operate and value our strong relationship with farmers across Pennsylvania.