Folks in Carroll County overwhelmingly support energy development, but some were initially hesitant that the development would affect the local agriculture industry. When asked, most people will mention that they were worried about farmers selling out and moving away after selling gas leases on their land.
“We were all worried about losing our farmers, that was the one big worry,” explains Carol McIntire, editor of the Free Press Standard.
But as local pastor Frank Leghart explains, agriculture in the county is stronger than ever. Even as farm incomes from gas drilling have increased, farmers have reinvested in their farms and are growing stronger and stronger.
“Our farmers didn’t end up leaving. They stayed and invested more and more money into the community and into their farms. They are as strong as they have been in a long time,” he said. “I see now where there were farms ready to go under, but now with all the signing bonuses and lease income, they’ve got new tractors; it literally saved farms.”
That improvement is trickling down to the rest of the local farm economy. Equipment dealers are back ordered on inventory and prices at the local livestock barn are at all-time highs. The Carroll County Fair and Junior Livestock auction saw total sales of $304,872 — nearly $100,000 more than last year, and set an all-time high record.
Pastor Leghart also says he’s seen his church grow over the past few years. He started the congregation in 2003 with seven parishioners and now counts around 120 people as members. He says energy development has afforded him the opportunity to minister to many new people.
“We see new faces in church almost every week and I go out to rig sites all the time to minister to the rig workers and pray for their safety,” he said.