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Farmland Preservation Program

The Buncombe County Farmland Preservation Program was developed to encourage the voluntary preservation and protection of farmlands from non-farm development. This is in recognition of the importance of agriculture to the economic and social life of North Carolina. The General Assembly of the State of North Carolina authorizes counties to undertake a series of programs to encourage the preservation of farmland in their communities. In November of 1989, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners adopted a Farmland Preservation Ordinance, tailored to meet the needs of Buncombe County, the first of its kind in the state. This ordinance provided for the creation of an Agricultural Advisory Board to administer this program. The Board acts as support for local farmers by reviewing and approving applications for qualifying farmland as well as establishing Voluntary Ag Districts.

The Buncombe County Ag Advisory Board is composed of nine county residents, appointed by the County Commissioners. A minimum of five of the Board members must be actively engaged in farming. Those five are selected from candidates recommended by the Soil and Water Conservation District, the N. C. Cooperative Extension Service, and the Farm Services Agency committee. The Ag Advisory Board meets at 11:00 am every third Tuesday of the month in the Buncombe County Soil and Water Building in conference room B, 49 Mount Carmel Rd. Asheville, NC 28806.

Agricultural Advisory Board Members

  • Gary Roberts
  • Terri Wells
  • Loring McIntyre
  • David Lee
  • David Snelson
  • Alan Lang
  • Amanda Sizemore
  • Ed Bulluck
  • Jerry Roberts

The Agricultural District Ordinance will provide for the establishment of an agricultural advisory board, organized, and appointed as the country or city that adopted the ordinance shall deem appropriate. p>

The county advisory board has the authority to:

  • Review and make recommendations concerning the establishment and modification of agricultural districts.
  • Review and make recommendations concerning any ordinance or amendment adopted or proposed for adoption.
  • Hold public hearings on public projects likely to have an impact on agricultural operations, particularly if such projects involve condemnation of all or part of any qualifying farm.
  • Advise the governing board of the county or city on projects, programs, or issues affecting the agricultural economy or way of life within the county.
  • Perform other related tasks or duties assigned by the governing board of the county or city.

Meeting Times for Ag Advisory Board Meetings:

The Ag Advisory Board meets on the third Tuesday of every month. Time varies based on month and location - see details below.

  • January - 11 am at 49 Mount Carmel Rd Asheville Conference Room B
  • February - 8 am at WNC AG Center Virginia Boone Building after the Friends of Ag Breakfast
  • March - 11 am at 49 Mount Carmel Rd Asheville Conference Room B
  • April - 11 am at 49 Mount Carmel Rd Asheville Conference Room B
  • May - 8 am at WNC AG Center Virginia Boone Building after the Friends of Ag Breakfast
  • June - 11 am at 49 Mount Carmel Rd Asheville Conference Room B
  • July - 11 am at 49 Mount Carmel Rd Asheville Conference Room B
  • August - 8 am at WNC AG Center Virginia Boone Building after the Friends of Ag Breakfast
  • September - 11 am at 49 Mount Carmel Rd Asheville Conference Room B
  • October - 11 am at 49 Mount Carmel Rd Asheville Conference Room B
  • November - 8 am at WNC AG Center Virginia Boone Building after the Friends of Ag Breakfast
  • December - 11 am at 49 Mount Carmel Rd Asheville Conference Room B

Our Farmland Preservation Programs

Voluntary Ag District Preservation Program (VAD)

A local government program that allows farmers to voluntarily enroll their farm property in an agricultural district. The purpose of the program is to slow the decline of farmlands in the county and offer operators of farms some protection from encroachment of development. An agricultural district consists of at least 50 acres of qualifying farmland, individually or separately owned, which are located within one mile of each other. In order to be considered "qualifying farmland", the land must meet a short list of requirements. Almost all farms in the county meet those requirements. Participating landowners will sign an agreement to sustain, encourage and promote agriculture. Maps designating participating farms, that form agricultural districts will be posted in the Register of Deeds office, Code Enforcement office, Land Records, Soil and Water Conservation District and Agricultural Extension.

VAD Benefits for the Farm and Farmer

  • Recognition & public education about agriculture. Members of the program will be given signs to post, identifying their farm as a member of a preservation district, indicating to any potential neighbors and passersby that your land is committed to the preservation of the agriculture way of life.
  • Increased protection from nuisance suits. Notice on the property signaling Agricultural District membership and a notice in the computerized land record system making those within a ½ mile of an Agricultural District farm aware of the potential for noise, odor, dust, or slow moving farm vehicles associated with farming.
  • Waiver of water and sewer assessments. Landowners within Agricultural Districts who are not connected to water or sewer systems operated by the county can have water & sewer assessments waived.
  • Public hearings required for proposed condemnation. Public hearing held by the Agricultural Advisory Board if the land in an Agricultural District is considered for a public project that may condemn land.
  • Eligibility for funding. District members may be eligible for farmland preservation funds as local, state, or federal funds become available.
  • Official role in county or city government. The Agricultural Advisory Board acts as advisor to the governing board of the county or city on projects, program, or issues affecting the agricultural economy or way of life within the county or city

VAD Requirements (As defined in G.S. 106-737)

  • Farm participating in the farm present-use-value taxation program (G.S. 105-277.2 - 105-277.7) or is otherwise determined by the county to meet all the qualification of this program set forth in G.S. 105-277.3.
  • Farm managed in accordance with the Soil Conservation Service defined erosion control practices that are addressed to highly erodible land.
  • Farm is the subject of a conservation agreement, as defined in G.S. 121-35, between the county and the owner of such land that prohibits nonfarm use or development of such land for a period of at least 10 years, except for the creation of not more than three lots that meet applicable county zoning and subdivision regulations. By written notice to the county, the landowner may revoke this conservation agreement (if a VOLUNTARY Agricultural District). Such revocation shall result in the loss of qualifying farm status.
  • Other eligibility requirements required by the individual county
  • VAD Application (PDF 7 KB)

Enhanced Voluntary Ag District Preservation Program (EVAD)

EVAD has all the same requirements as VAD plus a couple more listed below. More Information about EVAD.

EVAD Benefits for Farm and Farmer

  • All VAD Benefits Plus
  • May receive up to 25% of its gross sales from the sale of nonfarm products and still qualify as a bona fide farm that is exempt from zoning regulations under G.S. 153A-340(b).
  • Eligible to receive a higher percentage of cost-share funds under the Agriculture Cost Share Program pursuant to Part 9 of Article 21 of Chapter 143 of the General Statutes.

EVAD Requirements:

(As defined in G.S. 106-737 & G.S. 106-743)

  • Includes all terms of a VAD agreement plus
  • Conservation agreement as defined in G.S. 121- 35, between the county and the landowner prohibits nonfarm use or development of such land for an irrevocable period of 10 years.
  • Automatic renewal of conservation agreement for 3 years absent a written notice to the county revoking the conservation agreement as required by the ordinance.
  • EVAD Application (PDF 14 KB)

Conservation Easement Agreement

A conservation agreement (or conservation easement) is a written agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization or public agency, in which the landowner (also called grantor or donor) promises to keep his or her land in its natural condition without extensive disturbance, and the conservation organization or public agency (also called grantee) has the right to monitor the property and enforce the terms of the agreement.

A conservation agreement is similar to restrictive covenants in a subdivision in that it restricts various uses of land. Each conservation agreement is voluntary and tailored to meet the needs of the landowner while protecting the property’s natural assets. There are different types of conservation agreements, and they go by different names. For example, a conservation agreement may also be referred to as a deed of conservation easement, a grant of development rights, a historic preservation agreement, a farmland agreement, a facade easement, a working forest easement, a water quality easement or an agricultural easement. Conservation agreements are intended to preserve undeveloped property, and provide a benefit to the public by conserving open lands, forests, wildlife habitat, scenic vistas, farmland, stream banks and other significant natural resources. Because of this public benefit, landowners who donate conservation agreements are eligible for significant federal, state and local tax incentives. In addition, grant programs exist to purchase conservation agreements from landowners who have eligible property but may not be in a position to donate an easement.

The Farmland Preservation Ordinance has been revised to allow the County to hold permanent conservation easements on farms in the county.  These easements are designed to protect rural lands, particularly in the vicinity of urban growth, near high priority waterways and other environmentally sensitive areas.  This gives landowners another option when faced with the pressures of development. Conservation Easements typically take 2-3 years from beginning to closing, here is a list of the steps of the Buncombe County Conservation Easement Process.

Conservation Easement Landowner Resources

Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Plan

The County also recently adopted an Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Plan which contains information about farming enterprises in the County, and a list of items that the County can take to preserve farmland.  Here is a copy of the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Plan.

Friends of Ag Breakfast

A quarterly breakfast held at the WNC Ag Center at the Virginia Boone Building (Gate 5). This breakfast is complimentary with Buncombe County farm fresh food and features an ag-related speaker. We typically serve local eggs, sausage, bacon, preserves, hot sauce, vegetables and more from Local Buncombe County Farms.

Please email if you are interested in speaking, donating local food or being added to the Ag Breakfast Mailing list.

Big thank you to our Ag Breakfast Sponsors:

  • Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Cooperative Extension
  • Farm Bureau
  • Carolina Farm Credit
  • WNC Ag Center

The Farm Heritage Trail

The Farm Heritage Trail is a scenic driving and cycling route through the rural agricultural communities of Alexander, Leicester, Newfound and Sandy Mush in northwest Buncombe County. The public is welcome to travel the public roads of this trail and enjoy viewing the conserved family farms, with designated signage, that are along the route. The entire route is a leisurely two hour drive while enjoying a few stops along the way. Trail riders may choose to follow the specific route or enter and exit at any point, selecting farms they may want to drive by or visit along the way. You will notice our logo utilized as barn quilts along the route.

We encourage you to support the local farms who are open to the public; they are designated with "Farm Stop" signage and listed on the website. They will have their hours posted at their farms, and their hours are also posted on this site under farm stops. We suggest you download or print the farm stops page and the map/directions page to have with you on your journey. Internet connection can be limited.

The Farm Heritage Trail will have an ongoing calendar of events, hikes, farm to table dinners, educational opportunities and fun activities for the entire family throughout the year. There is always something to experience and enjoy on the Farm Heritage Trail.

The Farm Heritage Trail project received funding through a Buncombe County Community Recreation Grant. For More information:

Additional Farmland Preservation Resources

Farmland Preservation Applications and Information:

Funding Programs BCSWCD applies for:

Farmland Preservation Resources: