Pictured: Charles and Tammy Brown (Thanks to Soil & Water Conservation District)
On Oct. 28, 2019, Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation’s Farmland Preservation Program closed on a conservation easement of 144.3 Acres in the scenic Sandy Mush Community.
The property was awarded NCDA ADFP funding for the easement because of the protection of agricultural soils, the long history of farming in the community, and the proximity to other protected lands. Buncombe Soil and Water conservation District’s Farmland Preservation Coordinator, Ariel Zijp with the guidance of the Ag Advisory Board raised funding to protecting this important property.
The Property is in northwest Buncombe County in the Sandy Mush community and is in close proximity to a variety of other farmland conservation easements. By protecting this property, it adds to the significant protected lands within Buncombe County and the overall Blue Ridge mountain landscape.
Margaret Brown Farm is a fourth-generation family farm that has been active in Sandy Mush Valley since the early 1900’s. The farm transitioned from beef cattle to a small dairy farm and back to a beef cattle operation. Margaret Brown left the family farm to her children, Charles Brown and Sarah Benson. Both Sarah and Charles were raised on the property and have a strong passion for keeping the family land in farming. With their conservation ethic strongly rooted, the children want to preserve it so that the next generations would have the opportunity to continue the farming tradition. Brown and his family had to close the dairy in 2015. The dairy was the only life his family knew and his only livelihood. It was the Brown family’s life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, rain or shine—their entire life was the dairy. Since closing the dairy, they have transitioned to raising beef cattle. The Brown family is invested in the rural agricultural tradition, and they believe in protecting this family farmland to preserve the rural culture and heritage.
Pictured: Lynn Cox (private attorney), Tammy and Charles Brown (landowners), Sarah and Ron Benson (landowner), Ariel Zijp (BC Soil and Water Conservation), Jonathon Lanier (NCDA Attorney) (Picture thanks to Soil & Water Conservation District)
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) The benefits are:
- Economic: farming and forestry are major economic sources 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 habitats 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 habitats, 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, keeping 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.
You can learn more about Farmland Conservation at Soil & Water's website. If you want to learn more about Farmland Preservation contact Ariel Zijp from Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District.