Guilford County has been making an effort in recent years to promote more preservation of farmland and natural areas. 

There’s been a lot of consternation about “urban sprawl” in many parts of the county and one program that’s being used to fight it is the Voluntary Agricultural District program.  At a Thursday, April 1 meeting of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the board is expected to approve not one, not two, not three, but four tracks of land as Voluntary Agricultural Districts.

The purpose of the state’s Agricultural District program is “to encourage the preservation and protection of farmland from non-farm development … in recognition of the importance of agriculture to the economic and social well-being of North Carolina.”

Those landowners who apply for and are granted Voluntary Agricultural District Status get certain benefits in return for committing to keep their land agricultural.  They can get enhanced benefits from the NC Soil & Water Conservation cost-share programs and become eligible for farmland preservation grants.  They may also escape certain requirements put on other landowners – such as being required to connect to water and sewer systems.

The State of North Carolina passed the “Farmland Preservation Enabling Act” in 1985.  Fifteen years later, Guilford County adopted a Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program Ordinance, which created the county’s Agricultural Districts Advisory Board and also laid out the procedures for establishing Voluntary Ag Districts.

On Thursday, April 1,  the Guilford County commissioners are expected to vote to add 275 acres on the 4000 block of NC 150 to the program, along with 73 acres at 6621 Frieden Church Road, 32 acres at 2005 Stewart Hutchins Road and 17 acres near Climax at 7147 Charnel Road.

Since the program began in 2000, over 400 Guilford County farms totaling about 18,000 acres have become Voluntary Agricultural Districts.