I learned a new term in college that has always been part of any evaluation since then: highest and best use. In terms of land planning, it relates to the greatest economic development that is permissible by law on any given piece of land. For example, a forest has some potential for income generation through recreational fees as well as tree harvesting, but a factory that produces whatever widgets it makes can end up with lots of value.
Highest and best use in those terms relate to economics only. What is the most money you can earn from any piece of property.
But there are other meanings to highest and best use, really.
Yesterday, at the Oregon State Fair I had some time prior to my Can-Do Real Food presentation, so I went around and sat with people in the audience and chatted. Most were really receptive to conversation but one person cut it short.
I started by asking if they were a farmer or a gardener. Yes, I farm was the proud answer. I held up my thumbs and clearly showed they were not green and told her I highly respected the work she did to produce food.
So far so good.
I then told her I am a food processor using the surplus food from area farms. She asked what that meant.
I told her how I had worked on a farm and had been really surprised and pretty appalled how much food ended up in the compost pile only because it was shaped funny.
So? she responded…and there was an edge to that tone of voice.
When I explained how I had developed my business to capture that unsold healthy produce to preserve it for local consumers she was visibly shaken. She informed me that compost has value.
I agreed,. I know, as the farmers at my partner farms have told me, that compost goes back into the soil as green fertilizer.
But, I suggested, it can be used to not only feed people, but to provide another income stream for the farmer.
At that point she stood up and told me that she didn’t NEED any more income. She then walked out.
So, she is probably right. When I was in college and learned about highest and best use I was being taught that the epitome of best is collecting the most money.
Perhaps this woman had a message she could share that would be valuable.