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Buncombe Closes on Nesbitt Conservation Easement

From Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation:

On March 28, 2019, Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation’s Farmland Preservation Program closed on a conservation easement of 42.2 Acres in Cane Creek Community. The Property was awarded NCDA and USDA funds for the easement because of the high concentration of prime agricultural soils on the property. This farm is part of the Cane Creek Dairy/T and C Dairy, which is one of the last three dairies operating within Buncombe County. The Property is in close proximity to a variety of farmland conservation easements within the Fairview Community. By protecting this property, it adds to the significant protected lands within Buncombe County and the overall Blue Ridge mountain landscape. The property is visible from Cane Creek Road, which is a major thoroughfare in the Fairview/fletcher communities, and therefore the protection of this property helps ensure the rural and scenic vistas are protected in the region forever, as well as agricultural productive lands.

Farm History

Cane Creek Dairy is a fourth generation farm that has been farming in the Cane Creek Valley for over 105 years. The following is its history, as told by Amanda Sizemore, Cane Creek Valley Organic Farm (Tony Nesbitt’s Daughter): “It all began with George W. Nesbitt. He purchased the farm in 1903 and grew organic vegetables that he sold locally and to surrounding communities. He brought up two lovely daughters, Lynne and Georgia, and a son named John K. Nesbitt. John grew up working the land behind a horse and plow. He had a very real understanding of the land and his environment – and that fostered a genuine love for farming. He left the farm as a young man to pursue a degree in Agronomy, taught classes to help other farmers improve their farms, and worked for the Soil and Water Conservation District. Then he moved his young family back to the farm where he and his wife Mary raised a family of five children. He spent the rest of his life applying all that he had learned and experienced to his own farming practices.

John introduced the first Holstein cows to the farm operation in 1954 and a dairy operation began. The focus on growing vegetables shifted to growing corn, hay and grain crops for the cattle. He took great pride in caring for his land and passed that philosophy of conservation down to his son George A. Nesbitt (‘Tony’) as they worked side by side. Tony was born and raised on the farm and describes himself as a farm boy that truly enjoys life on the farm! Some of his earliest memories are riding on the tractor through the fields with his Dad – he taught him a lot about the practice of farming.

Tony and his wife, Celia D. Nesbitt, completely took over the responsibility of the family farm in 1986. Over the years, they have grown the dairy operation from a 75 cow herd to a 550 cow herd. Cane Creek Dairy currently sells almost a million gallons of antibiotic free, hormone free milk each year that is locally processed in Asheville, NC and distributed to surrounding area stores. They have made their living for 35 years dairy farming on this land. They consider themselves blessed to be able to farm and raise their family of nine children on this land and in the community they grew up in and call home.” 

The Benefits of Protecting Working Lands

Working Lands in North Carolina are a critical part of our heritage and economy. They supply us with food, fuel, fiber as well as other benefits.

“Working farms and forests provide communities with a broad set of benefits, some immediate and tangible, and others more subtle and long lasting. At minimal cost, local citizens enjoy the economic, environmental, cultural, open space and fiscal amenities that agriculture provides, in addition to a safe and abundant supply of locally produced food.” (American Farmland Trust Planning for an Agricultural Future, p.3)

  • Economic: Farming and forestry are major economic activities in North Carolina. According to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS), agriculture provides $7 billion in direct sales and contributes a total of $62 billion in economic activity to the state’s economy. The forestry sector adds an additional $19 billion in economic activity.
  • Environmental: North Carolina’s farm and forest landowners manage 23 million acres, over 83 percent of the non-federal land base in the state. All citizens depend on farmers to be stewards of our natural resources, providing clean water and wildlife habitat across the state.
  • Rural Heritage: Agriculture is a major part of the state’s cultural heritage, with farm families anchoring rural communities and providing an important piece of North Carolina’s unique historical character.
  • Open Space: Farms and forests provide wildlife habitat, green space and beautiful views. North Carolina’s well-known scenic beauty attracts tourist dollars from around the world.
  • Tax Savings: Privately owned working lands provide fiscal benefits, helping keep property taxes low due to their minimal need of public services.
  • Local Food: North Carolina farms are increasingly valued as a source of fresh, safe and healthy food. The growth of farmers’ markets, Community Supported Agriculture and farm-to-school programs around the state point to strong consumer demand for locally grown fruits, vegetables, wines, meats and dairy products.