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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 Program

Encouraging the preservation & protection of farmlands in Buncombe County.

The Buncombe County Farmland Preservation Program's purpose is to encourage the voluntary preservation and protection of farmlands from non-farm development.

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.

The first Farmland Preservation Ordinance was adopted by the Board of Commissioners in 1989, tailed to meet the needs of Buncombe County - the first of its kind in the state. The ordinance created the Agricultural Advisory Board to administer the Farmland Preservation program. The Board acts as support for local farmers by reviewing and approving applications for Voluntary Agricultural Districts, Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural Districts and Conservation Easements.

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Preservation Programs

Enroll your farm with a Voluntary Agricultural District or Conservation Easements.

Voluntary Ag District & Enhanced Voluntary Ag District Program

A Voluntary Agricultural District is a program to encourage the voluntary preservation of farmland from non-farm development.

What are the Benefits?

  1. Recognition and public education about agriculture - Members of the program have farmland preservation district signage to post identifying their farm as a member of the district. This indicates to neighbors and passersby that your land is committed to the preservation of the agricultural way of life.
  2. Increased protection from nuisance suits - Notice on the property signaling district membership and a notice on the County GIS system making those within a ½ mile of the district aware of the potential for noise, odor, dust or slow moving farm vehicles associated with farming. 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.
  3. Waiver of water and sewer assessments - Landowners within Agricultural Districts who are not connected to water or sewer operated by county can have these assessments waived.
  4. Public hearings required for proposed condemnation - Public hearing held by Agricultural Advisory Board if the land in an Agricultural District is considered for public project that may condemn land.
  5. Eligibility for Funding - District members may be eligible for farmland preservation funds, local, state or federal.
  6. Quality of Life - Protecting Agricultural Lands protects open space, scenic views, clean water, wildlife, locally grown food, natural resources and rural heritage.
  7. Preserving North Carolina’s #1 industry - Success of agriculture will foster growth and development of family farms and increase awareness about importance of Ag.
  8. County-wide economic benefit - there is a net gain of revenue for the tax base for Agricultural land because working land brings in more money than it requires in county services.

Is Your Farm Eligible for VAD/EVAD?

Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD):
  • Farm participating in Agriculture, Horticulture or Forestry use in the Present-Use-Value taxation program G.S. 105-277.2 – 105-277.7 or be actively engaged in Agriculture as defined in NC G.S. 106-581.1.
  • Farm managed in accordance with USDA erosion control practices that address Highly Erodible Land (HEL).
  • Farm is subject to a conservation agreement between county and owner that prohibits non-farm development for a period of 10 years. Agreement may be revoked by written notice sent to the County.
Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural District (EVAD):
  • Farm participating in Agriculture, Horticulture or Forestry use in the Present-Use-Value taxation program G.S. 105-277.2 – 105-277.7 or be actively engaged in Agriculture as defined in NC G.S. 106-581.1.
  • Farm managed in accordance with USDA erosion control practices that address Highly Erodible Land (HEL).
  • Farm is subject to a conservation agreement between county and owner that prohibits non-farm development for a period of 10 years. Agreement may be not be revoked during the period of 10 years. A conservation deed is recorded at the register of Deeds protecting the property for 10 years.

Additional Benefits for Enhanced Voluntary Ag District

  • Eligible to receive higher percentage of Cost-share Funds (90 percent) under the Buncombe soil and Water Conservation District’s Agricultural Cost-share Program.
  • 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).

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program

A Conservation Easement (CE) is a written and recorded deed agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization. The landowner promises to keep the land in its natural conditions without development, and the agency protects the property by enforcing an easement deed and monitors property in perpetuity.

Conservation easement is a very effective way to protect and conserve land in North Carolina. Conservation easements are used to protect farms, forests and mountains. A CE is a legal agreement between landowner and a conservation agency in which both parties agree to restrict development. These restrictions are designed to protect the conservation values of the property and the binding agreement stays with the property as it changes ownership.

The Buncombe County Farmland Preservation Ordinance allows 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.

How Easements Preserve Farmland?

  • Easement Deed is recorded at register of deeds
  • Buncombe Soil and Water monitors easement property annually
  • Easement is designed to keep land available for Farming and Forestry
  • Deed Language is tailored to meet property owners goals and needs
  • Reserved Home site allows for a home to be reserved for family members
  • Farmstead Area permits new buildings related to farm operations
  • Encourages best management farming practices to conserved natural resources

What are the Benefits?

  1. Protecting Precious Family Land
  2. Protect Property from Development Pressure
  3. Protect Natural Resources and wildlife
  4. Protect regions local food production and food resilience
  5. Protect Farming and family heritage
  6. Leave a legacy of a protected farm to the next generation
  7. Protect Open Space, Scenic Views, working lands
  8. Reduce Cost-share requirements for Ag Cost-share program to 90% coverage
  9. Conservation Easement grant fund for development rights
  10. Potential Tax benefits from preserving property when donating some value of the conservation easement. This donation of value is considered a public benefits and so landowners can take advantage of a variety of tax incentives, federal income tax deduction, and possible estate tax deduction.

Participate

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 Events

A quarterly event held at the WNC Ag Center at the Virginia Boone Building, Gate 5.

This event 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

  • Local Buncombe County Farms: Sycamore Valley Farm, Farside Farms, Hickory nut Gap Farm, Warren Wilson College Farm, Jasperwood Farm, Mills River Creamery, Imladris Farms, Buncombe Beekeepers Club
  • Buncombe Soil and Water Conservation District
  • Buncombe Cooperative Extension
  • Buncombe Farm Bureau
  • WNC Ag Center
  • Carolina Farm Credit

Locate & Contact

Soil & Water Conservation District

Contact

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

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