The North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Farmland Preservation Trust Fund has awarded The LandTrust for Central North Carolina its largest grant ever to protect the John Bunyan Green farm in Cabarrus County from future development. By placing a conservation easement on the property, the owner of the farm and The LandTrust have assured that certain types of development will never occur on the property, while at the same time encouraging agricultural uses for it.
Located in Midland, the 317 acre farm encompasses rolling hills, hardwood forests, wildlife habitat, a perennial stream, a historic farmhouse, barns, corn cribs, a smoke house, tenant houses, remnants from a historic mill, and approximately one mile of river frontage along the scenic Rocky River. It has been in the Green Family for more than a century, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It serves as a valuable agricultural asset to the region in terms of its agricultural production (hay, cotton, soybeans, corn, and cattle), but also represents an important historical resource.

One of the most significant aspects of this farm preservation, however, is that it marks the largest effort made by the state of North Carolina to help farmers voluntarily protect their land through the North Carolina Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. This Fund was created by the General Assembly nearly a decade ago to assist farmers who wanted to ensure that their prime farmland would not be forever lost to alternative uses. It was designed to pay for development rights that farmers could voluntarily sell or donate to conservation groups if their farm had significant agricultural resources. However, the Trust Fund was not allocated any money by the state until 1998, when it received $250,000 thanks to the efforts of State Senators Jim Phillips and Fountain Odom, as well as others.

The 1998 allocation was quickly claimed by non-profit and governmental organizations to protect 758 acres of prime farmland across the state in 1999. Following the success of the pilot program, the General Assembly doubled the allocation to the Trust Fund in 1999 to $500,000. With this allocation, an additional 1223 acres of prime farmland has been protected this year. Because every recipient of grant funds is required to protect more land through an easement than they are actually being compensated for, the Trust Fund has leveraged the protection of significantly greater farmland than might otherwise be expected with such limited funding. State leaders are presently working to increase the Year 2000 allocation to this Fund to at least One Million Dollars.

In the case of the John Green farm protection, The LandTrust for Central North Carolina received a grant for $125,000 to reimburse John Bunyan Green II for placing a conservation easement on his entire 317 acre farm. The $125,000 grant proved to be the largest single grant ever awarded by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture under the Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Chuck Roe, who is the Executive Director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (a statewide conservation group that has contracted with the Department of Agriculture to administer the Trust Fund program), believes that the Farmland Preservation Trust Fund has great potential to help save prime farmland from development. "We rely on family farms for food, agricultural products, open space, viewsheds, wildlife habitat, and watershed buffer areas. The Farmland Preservation Trust Fund is an effective tool to preserve some of these special farms in that it is voluntary for the farmers, it is cost effective, and the benefits are far reaching and long lasting."

Jason Walser, Associate Director for Land Protection at The LandTrust, said "Even with the grant from the Department of Agriculture, Mr. Green still gave up a tremendous amount of value by placing a conservation easement on his land. From my first conversation with Mr. Green, it has been obvious that his primary desire has always been to continue the legacy his ancestors had of fostering agricultural production and wildlife habitat on the land. And we hope that this commitment of his will act as a catalyst to others in the region to preserve their own farms."

The North Carolina Farmland Preservation Trust Fund provided Mr. Green the assurance that he could invest his time and resources into making his farm as productive and beautiful as possible without having to worry that the next generation to own his farm would pave over his efforts. John Green, the grant recipient, added "There needs to be more money available in this Fund so that my neighbors in this community can have the same opportunity that I had. The more options we have – Farmland Preservation money, incorporation of Midland to make its own decisions about growth, the creation of Farmland Preservation Districts in the county – the more likely it is that the farming community can continue here and produce the food we all require three times a day. When you look twenty miles out from Charlotte in any direction, you can see that this may be the best hope of a viable farming community in the Charlotte region."

A conservation easement, is a flexible but legally-binding agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization like The LandTrust. In such an agreement, the landowner commits to keeping the land in a relatively undeveloped state, although some limited building of homes and other such structures may be permitted. In the case of this particular easement, Mr. Green can continue living on and farming the land. However, the basic rural and historic character of the property will be preserved, as well as a forested buffer along the Rocky River. Future owners of this property will also be bound by the same terms. The easement does not permit public access to the property, but will protect the scenic vistas enjoyed by the public from Garmon Mill Road.

The LandTrust for Central North Carolina is a non-profit land conservation organization that protects the natural areas, family farms, and wildlife habitat throughout the south-central Piedmont of North Carolina. For further information about The LandTrust’s ongoing programs, or to learn how you can help support the ongoing efforts of land preservation in this region, please contact the staff at (704) 647-0302.
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