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New 2020 Farmland Protection Plan

Providing guidance and recommended next steps for Buncombe's Award Winning Farmland Preservation Program.

Download the New 2020 Farmland Protection Plan 

Farmland Preservation

Encouraging the preservation & protection of farmlands in Buncombe County.

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 vitality of North Carolina. The North Carolina General Assembly authorizes Counties to undertake a series of programs to encourage the preservation of farmland in their communities.

The Buncombe County Soil & Water Conservation District assists with the administration of the County's Voluntary Agricultural Districts and Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural Districts programs as well as developing and holding permanent conservation easements on working farms and conducting other activities that support and promote local agriculture.

In 1989, the Board of Commissioners adopted a Farmland Preservation Ordinance, tailored to meet the needs of Buncombe County—the first of its kind in the state. The 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 Agricultural Districts.

Preservation Programs

Enroll your farm with an Agricultural District, and Conservation Easements.

Voluntary Ag District Preservation Program

The Voluntary Ag District (VAD) is 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 that almost all farms in the County meet. 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 and public education about agriculture. Members of the program will be given signs to post identifying their farm as a member of a Preservation District and indicating to passersby that your land is committed to the preservation of agriculture.
  • 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 one-half 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 and 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

VAD Requirements as defined in GS §106-737

  • Farm participating in the farm present-use-value taxation program (GS §§105-277.2–105-277.7) or is otherwise determined by the county to meet all the qualification of this program set forth in GS §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 GS §121-35, between the county and the owner of such land that prohibits non-farm 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

Enhanced Voluntary Ag District Preservation Program

EVAD has all the same benefits and requirements as VAD plus an additional few as stated.

EVAD Benefits for Farm & Farmer

  • All VAD Benefits, plus
  • May receive up to 25-percent of its gross sales from the sale of non-farm products and still qualify as a bona fide farm that is exempt from zoning regulations under GS § 153A-340(b).
  • Eligible to receive a higher percentage of cost-share funds under the Agriculture Cost Share Program pursuant to GS §§ 143-215.74–143-215.74B.

EVAD Requirements

  • Includes all terms of a VAD agreement, plus
  • Conservation agreement as defined in GS § 121-35, between the county and the landowner prohibits non-farm use or development of such land for an irrevocable period of 10 years.
  • Automatic renewal of conservation agreement for three (3) years absent a written notice to the county revoking the conservation agreement as required by the ordinance.

EVAD Requirements as defined in GS §§106-737–106-743

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 their 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 two to three years to complete.

Conservation Easement Resources

Program Resources


Explore and learn more about Buncombe County's working farms.

The Farm Heritage Trail

A scenic driving route through the rural agricultural communities of northwest Buncombe County.

The Farm Heritage Trail has an ongoing calendar of events, hikes, farm to table dinners, educational opportunities and fun activities for the entire family throughout the year.

The Farm Heritage Trail project received funding through a Buncombe County Community Recreation Grant.

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. View all scheduled dates for the Friends of Ag Breakfast.

Big thanks to our Ag Breakfast Sponsors

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

Locate & Contact

Soil & Water Conservation District


Ariel Zijp
Farmland Preservation Coordinator
P: (828) 250-4794

Soil & Water Conservation District
49 Mount Carmel Road, Suite 101
Asheville, NC 28806