FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, FEB. 24, 2009
Dewitt Hardee, program manager
Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation
(919) 733-7125, ext. 256
NCDA&CS grants help secure five long-term conservation easements in Ashe, Buncombe, Franklin and Halifax counties
RALEIGH – Funding from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund has helped secure long-term conservation easements on five tracts of farm and open land threatened by development.
“I am pleased we have been able to protect nearly 550 acres through these projects,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “It is absolutely critical that we work to protect open land now before development replaces the open space and environmental benefits created by farm and forest lands.”
The following easements were recently closed. They are:
- A conservation easement for 82 acres of Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Buncombe County, through cooperation of the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The farmland is currently leased to two farm families who operate Flying Cloud Farm and Hickory Nut Gap Meats. Hickory Nut Gap Farm represents a fifth-generation family farm, with two of the great-grandchildren of Jim and Elizabeth McClure operating the farms. The McClures bought the land in 1916, originally producing grains, apples, hogs, sheep and cattle. The farm shifted to a dairy operation after World War II, operating until 1988.
- A conservation easement for 86.79 acres of Helton Creek Farm in Ashe County, through partnership with Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust. The property has been owned by Jeffery Baldwin, a beginning farmer, since 2001. Baldwin raises Angus cattle, meat goats and miniature donkeys on the property. The farm is in an area of the county that is beginning to experience strong growth in housing and other non-agricultural uses.
- A conservation easement on 60 acres of land in Ashe County owned by Julia Robinson Hunter, through cooperation of High Country Conservancy. Hunter inherited the land from her grandfather and wanted to ensure its continued agricultural use. Her brother currently raises cattle and hay on the land. The land features prime agricultural soils – Colvard fine sandy loam and Tusquitee loam – in the bottomlands. Conserving the farm is expected to protect water quality along Three Top Creek and buffer Elk Knob State Park and Three Top Mountain Game Lands from development.
- A conservation easement on 210 acres of Jumping Run Farm in Franklin County through partnership with the North American Land Trust. The farm has been owned and farmed continuously by the Harris family since 1779. At 2,180 acres, the entire farm is one of the largest contiguous farms remaining in Franklin County. Clyde Harris, the current owner, leases the land to a local farmer who produces tobacco, soybeans, wheat, corn and 60 acres of banana and jalapeno peppers. The property designated for the conservation easement is situated in the Tar River watershed area in Franklin County that is experiencing rapid and widespread growth. The land is also located near two large developments – Lake Royale/River Golf Course and Hidden Lakes.
- A conservation easement on 108 acres of farm and timberland in Halifax County owned by Brian and Jennifer Short of Williamston through partnership with the Fishing Creek Soil and Water Conservation District. The couple has focused operations on timber production and wildlife management, and the easement will allow the land to continue to be managed in this fashion. The property is in the area of the Roanoke Rapids Theatre, which has seen increased land speculation for development.
The Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund is funded by the N.C. General Assembly. In 2008, grants totaling $7.6 million were awarded to support 41 farmland preservation and agricultural enterprise projects around the state. These projects are part of that funding cycle.
The trust fund has $4 million available for 2009, with nearly 70 applications seeking $15.5 million in assistance received by the December deadline.