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  Knox County Comprehensive Plan

    The Knox County Comprehensive Plan arose out of public discussions initiated in 1996 by the Knox County/Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. The chamber was among the first local organizations to appreciate the fact that developmental pressures from metropolitan Columbus were increasing and that change might not occur in desirable ways without planning. It was noted that while the population of Knox County had increased by 16,500 in the previous fifty years, the projected rate of growth would add that number in less than twenty-five years. The discussions, called “Focus 2100,” hoped to call attention to the potential impact of impending growth, identify planning issues, and emphasize the need for action on many levels.

    As a result of Focus 2100, Knox County established a comprehensive plan in 1998. The plan underscored community interest in protecting farmland and rural character. Several initiatives to support family farming, suggested by the Rural Life Center’s Family Farm Project, were included among the policy recommendations. These included (1) creation of a farmer’s market in Mount Vernon to sell locally produced goods, (2) publication of a guide to local food products in Knox County, and (3) development of plans for Kenyon College and other institutions to use local food.

    In 2005 the Knox County Regional Planning Commission thoroughly updated the plan. The revised plan identifies a variety of strategies to protect farmland, including the purchase of agricultural easements, the development of agricultural zoning, and the enhancement of local food purchases:

    Progress has been made on the goals in the 1998 Plan that drew attention to the importance and significance of local food production. A local farmers’ market has been established and information on local food sources is available in Knox County. These efforts can be expanded, along with more effort to encourage local institutions to use locally produced food. Knox County residents spend over $100 million each year on food and much of it could be grown locally. Drawing attention to the significance of locally produced food is a positive way to connect residents with the agricultural activity that surrounds them, to stabilize an economic base for local farming, and to help the local economy. (Knox County Comprehensive Plan Update 2005, chapter 8, p. 7).

    This strategy, conceived of and endorsed by the Knox County community, defines the core of Food for Thought and its activities.