The show Green Acres went off the air in 1971, but the longstanding effort of Guilford County government to preserve farmland and other rural patches of property continues as strong as ever.
While there are homes and buildings going up all over Guilford County, the county’s “Voluntary Agricultural District” program – developed by the NC Department of Agriculture to “encourage the preservation and protection of farmland from non-farm development” – is adding more property to its rolls.
This week, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners plans to add about 100 acres of farmland to the list of property committed by owners for preservation.
Earlier this year, at the Monday, March 21, meeting of the Guilford County Agricultural Advisory Board, the ag board approved a Voluntary Agricultural District application for 96.75 acres in Liberty owned by Philip Wray and Mary Wray. It’s located at 2530 NC-62 East.
Those ag board recommendations almost always get approved by the Board of Commissioners with no discussion.
Preserving farmland adds beauty to the county, helps maintain air quality, and keeps down other types of pollution including noise and light pollution that many rural county residents complain about.
Property owners who voluntarily put their land in the program become eligible for benefits such as land upkeep and preservation grants, waivers from water and sewer assessments and protection from condemnation laws. In addition, they can get enhanced benefits from NC Soil and Water Conservation District initiatives.
The approval by the Board of Commissioners of this new application will bring the total number of land parcels under farmland preservation commitments to 426 – totaling 18,905 enrolled acres.
About 90 of the state’s 100 counties have established Voluntary Agricultural Districts. Statewide, as of late last year, more than 12,500 farms – consisting of over 875,000 acres of farms and forests – were enrolled in the program across the state.
The State of North Carolina began the program as part of the “Farmland Preservation Enabling Act” in 1985. That act gave counties the right to create farmland preservation programs such as the Voluntary Ag District program.
Just after the turn of the century – the current century, that is – Guilford County adopted its “Voluntary Farmland Preservation” ordinance that allowed the creation of these special districts in the county.