In the 1980s, we helped start the Winona Farmers’ Market in Winona, Minn. Today, downtown Winona is buzzing with activity on Saturday mornings, with 40 vendors selling vegetables, fruits, meats, flowers, baked goods, dairy, honey and all sorts of delicious and healthy products, all grown and processed within a 50-mile radius of Winona.
The Farmers’ Market has provided sustainable livelihoods for farm families in Winona County, while supplying abundant, healthy and affordable food. It has re-energized the downtown, helping other businesses thrive.
Contrast the impacts of the Farmers’ Market with those of the industrial sand mining business. Farmers who grow food for Winona shoppers improve the soil, protect water quality and enhance pollinator and wildlife habitat.
Industrial sand mining ruins the soil, endangers water and destroys habitat. Food farming sustains the rural economy and provides children a bright future in agriculture. Sand mining is one and done — boom and bust — extract the sand, and move on.
Family farmers recycle dollars in the local economy—buying equipment, supplies, food and other necessities from local merchants. Sand mine companies are owned by outside investors and money is removed from our economy. The few jobs that are created are temporary, extractive and unsustainable.
The Winona County Planning Commission and the County Board have a unique opportunity to protect the environment and economic well being by implementing a legal ban on industrial sand mining operations. While gravel pits, rock quarries and small-scale sand mining operations will continue to operate, it is time to pass a ban on large-scale industrial sand mines and invest in businesses that build a bright, healthy future for Winona County and the region.
Land Stewardship Project members Jim Riddle and Joyce Ford own and operate Blue Fruit Farm in rural Winona County. For more on LSP’s campaign to ban frac sand mining activities in the county, see our Frac Sand Organizing web page.