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Thank You! Celebrating Landowners Who Have Preserved Working Farms and Open Land in Buncombe County

12th Annual Land Conservation Hall of Fame

Local landowners who have generously preserved working farms and open land in Buncombe County were recognized in the 12th Annual Land Conservation Hall of Fame, a dinner hosted by Buncombe County’s Land Conservation Advisory Board and the Buncombe County Agricultural Advisory Board.

These 33 donors (see full list of names below), whose contributions from 2017-2023 account for 3,054 acres of land, participate in the county’s land conservation programs which help protect family land, natural resources and wildlife, farming and heritage, local good production, boost the region’s tourism economy, among many other benefits.

Donors place conservation easements on their properties, which is a voluntary agreement by the landowner to restrict development on their property and protect its natural resources into perpetuity.

The event, the first since 2017, was hosted at the Eliada Homes campus and featured over 100 attendees.

“It is very powerful for landowners, staff, and board members to be in a room full of people dedicated to protecting Buncombes' beautiful landscape and natural resources,” says Farmland Preservation Manager Ariel Zijp. “Many landowners that are considering conservation easements for their property attend the event and feel inspired by the people that have already made that conservation commitment.”

In addition, individual awards this year included:

Conservationist of the Year Award – Aubrey and Rieta Wells of Aubrey Wells Farm
This award goes to a landowner whose easement goes above and beyond in its contribution to beauty and economic viability. Aubrey and Rieta were recognized for partnering with Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to protect multiple parcels of their state-recognized Century Family Farm operation in Buncombe County.

2023 Conservation Legacy Award – Karen Cragnolin (posthumously)
This award is given to a person who has created a significant impact on conservation efforts in Buncombe County during their lifetime. Karen was recognized for her dedication to conserving land and protecting water quality in Buncombe County through her work with RiverLink. 

Ariel says it’s important to honor these conservation easements and the donations that landowners have made to recognize the long-term commitment individuals are voluntarily making to protect the landscape and future of Buncombe County

“Not all people are willing to protect their land permanently and therefore in many cases reducing their property value and limiting their developments rights for future generations,” Ariel says. “Because of this, the county thinks it's important to acknowledge these dedicated individuals doing good to protect water quality, air quality, wildlife habitat, productive soils, viewsheds, and species diversity across buncombe county.” 

This event was organized and put on by Buncombe County Agriculture and Land Resources Department staff with support from members of the Agricultural Advisory Board and Land Conservation Advisory Board. 

For more information about land conservation programs, or about the Land Conservation Advisory Board and Agricultural Advisory Board, visit this link or contact Ariel at and  Avni Naik, Farmland Preservation at

Donors from 2017-2023

  • Dorothy Sneddon for Dador Farms, Fairview
  • Art and Pam McCurry for McCurry Farms, Weaverville
  • Denis O'Doherty and Robert Harvey for Cnoc Mor, Barnardsville
  • Diane Rosseter for Ed Maney Farms, Barnardsville
  • Bill and Alice Hart for Hart Family Farm, Leicester
  • Carole and Walt Currie for Hart/Currie Family Farm, Leicester
  • Jan Burleson for Still Mountain Farm, Barnardsville
  • Mark and Donna Diaz for Crosscreek Farm, Sandy Mush
  • Ed and Suzy Rankin for Rankin Farm, Fairview
  • Charles and Sandra Fortune for Fortune Farm II, Broad River
  • Charles and Tammy Brown and Sarah Benson for Margaret Brown Farm, Sandy Mush
  • Tony and Celia Nesbitt for Cane Creek Dairy Farm, Fairview
  • Aubrey and Rieta Wells for Aubrey Wells Farm & Hogeye Bottomlands, Sandy Mush
  • Olivette Development, LLC for Olivette Preserve, Asheville
  • Ellen O. Carr Trust for Wilma Dykeman Homestead, Asheville
  • Bearwallow Mountain Farms, LLC. for Bearwallow Mountain, Fairview
  • Katrina Brown and Killian Kaye Brown for Brown Farm, Arden
  • Town of Weaverville for Weaverville Watershed, Weaverville
  • Brandon Hensley for Ridgeview Farms, Alexander
  • Sacred Mountain Sanctuary for Young Pisgah Mountain, Upper Hominy
  • Curtis, June and Dale Hawkins for Sandy Hollar Farm Phase I, Sandy Mush
  • James McClure Clarke and Elspeth McClure Clarke FLP for Hickory Nut Gap Forest II, Fairview
  • Grover & Margaret Brown; Angela & Stephen Brown; Robert Brown for Brown Family Farm, Leicester
  • Alex Brown and Vanessa Campbell for Full Sun Farm, Sandy Mush
  • Leonard Wiener for Ballard Cove Property, Weaverville
  • Fred Pratt for Robinson Creek Property, Sandy Mush
  • Patty & Ed Ellis, and Katherine Tierney and Kara Powiss for Boyd Cove Property, Sandy Mush
  • Jim McGinty for Chemtronics Conservation Easement, Swannanoa
  • Wayne King, Tim King, Kimberly and Cameron Gosnell for Sandy Mush Bottom Lands, Sandy Mush
  • Jim and Jill Gibson for Gibson Farm Preserve, Sandy Mush
  • Enka Land Development One, LLC. for Scott's Ridge, Lower Hominy Community
  • James and Marcia Verbrugge for Brushy Knob, Black Mountain
  • Margaret Bridges for Jenkins Branch Farm, Alexander
  • Andy and Maureen Berner for Berner Forest, Barnardsville

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Updated Jun 23, 2023 03:52 PM
Published Jun 16, 2023 07:00 AM