Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
Organic Farmers Struggle to Protect Land from Encroaching Fracking Industry

Many farmers in Pennsylvania welcomed the natural gas industry with open arms, letting companies set up operations on their land to drill wells and fracture the shale rock thousands of feet under the surface. Pennsylvania would not have become one of the top gas producing states in the U.S. in such a short period without the acquiescence of the state’s farming community.

Not every landowner, though, believed in the promise of riches or bought into the gas industry’s image of family farms coexisting with large-scale industrial activities. Among the skeptics were organic farmers, who feared the entire process of shale gas drilling—from the building of the well pads through the hydraulic fracturing process to the disposal of fracking wastewater—threatened their ability to produce products that conformed to organic standards.

“I just want everyone to know that I won’t sell anything that I think is contaminated. I will go out of business and go after the gas company before I would sell one thing that I thought was contaminated,” said Maggie Henry, an organic farmer in Lawrence County, Pa., during a March 28 panel discussion in Pittsburgh, Pa., on farming and fracking moderated by Kirsi Jansa, a filmmaker and journalist.

Henry’s 88-acre organic pork and poultry farm is less than 4,000 feet from a drilling site operated by Shell. Henry’s battle with the shale gas industry is featured in the latest installment of Gas Rush Stories, Jansa’s documentary film project on shale gas drilling.
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