(from left to right) William A Hart Jr, Alice Hart, Farmland Preservation Manager Ariel Zijp, Carole Currie, Walter Currie, and Farmland Preservation Coordinator Avni Naik
On April 28, 2022, the Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Farmland Preservation Program closed on five conservation easements, protecting a total of 90 acres in the South Turkey Creek Community in Leicester. The properties were awarded both NCDA and USDA funding as they are considered desirable for conservation for a variety of reasons, but largely due to the high concentration of prime agricultural soils.
The Hart & Currie Farm is a combination of two properties: one is owned by William “Bill” A Hart Jr. and his wife Alice Hart; the other is owned by his sister, Carole Currie and her husband Walter Currie. These landowners have expressed their passion and commitment for conservation by protecting their family farm into perpetuity. This decision not only honors their ancestors but will allow future generations to farm on land with prime agricultural soils. In addition to prime soils, conservation values on this property include a variety of forest types, open space, diverse plant habitat, high water quality, and scenic pasture and forest. The farm is a mix of open pastures and cropland, as well as forest that contains timber ranging in age from 30 to 100+ years old. This large, intact family farm also boasts a rich diversity of native plant species. The Hart/Currie Farm is surrounded by thousands of acres of land held under conservation easements by Buncombe County Soil and Water and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, and the contiguity of conserved lands will continue to support diverse wildlife habitat and water quality protection.
The Hart & Currie farm is in proximity to a number of farmland conservation easements within the Leicester/Sandy Mush Region. Conserving this property adds to the significant acreage of protected lands within the County and the overall Blue Ridge Mountain landscape. The property is visible from South Turkey Creek Road and is along the Farm Heritage Trail. Thus, its protection helps to ensure that the rural and scenic vistas – as well as productive agricultural lands – are protected in the region forever.
In 1887, Carole and Bill’s great-grandfather and great-grandmother John Anthony Reeves and Clementine Ferguson Reeves first purchased the property on South Turkey Creek. The Turkey Creek valley has traditionally been a farming community involved in crop production, dairy, and beef cattle, and it has been the Hart & Currie family dream to protect their properties to help retain the local farming community. Prior to being called the Hart & Currie Farm, the property was named the Reeves Farm and has been in the family since 1887. Because of continuous family ownership of over 100 years, the farm was recently designated as a Century Farm. The family farm was much larger when it was first established, and after generations of dividing and handing down land to children, the farm has been parceled off into smaller sections.
Their grandfather, Malley B. Reeves, started a dairy on the farm circa 1919. In addition to his dairying operations, he raised wheat, oats, corn, tobacco and produce. He sold his farm-raised produce door to door in Asheville. Upon the termination of the dairying operations in 1994, the family has leased the farm -- most recently as a commercial tomato growing operation. The Hart & Currie families cherish their farms as they serves as a gateway to the South Turkey Creek Valley. Their hope of its agricultural heritage being preserved into the future is made a reality with the closing of the conservation easement.
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.