It wasn’t that many years ago that Guilford County economic development officials were gung ho on seeking a “higher use” for the county’s large open spaces – particularly on the 806 acres in eastern Guilford County and western Alamance County that once constituted the Guilford County Prison Farm.

Over the years, the hopes for that land included things like a Wal-Mart distribution center, a massive data server farm, an advanced aviation manufacturing facility and even a Christian-themed amusement park.

So, it’s interesting that the Prison Farm – after closing down a decade ago, largely in anticipation of some grand project being placed there – has returned to being used as farm land.

 Guilford County is giving out new leases of various other county open spaces to be used as farmland as well.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners intends, at its Thursday, Feb. 1, meeting, to authorize the lease of nearly 100 acres at 7770 Doggett Road in Brown Summit to RW Lambeth Farms Inc. for five years starting on April 1 of this year.

The annual lease payment for that land will be $14,400.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners also intends at that February meeting to promote farming in the county in another way.  The board will re-authorize the lease of office space at 3309 Burlington Road in Greensboro – better known as the Ag Center – to the United States of America on behalf of the US Department of Agriculture.  That new lease will run until January 31, 2027.

The use of those offices are going to set back the federal government $23,220 annually.

In recent years, the county has been supporting farmland in a variety of ways.  For instance, it has approved quite a few Voluntary Ag Districts, which allow the landowners some benefits if they commit to keeping their land farmland.

Also, in the summer of 2023, the county leased out roughly half of the Prison Farm land to a Brown Summit farmer for an extended period of time – essentially killing plans to develop that land for a “higher purpose.”  On Thursday, July 13, the county commissioners voted to lease out nearly 400 acres of crop parcels and pasture to Philip Faucette II for $23,895 a year for the next five years.

There is a tremendous amount of new business coming to Guilford County and many new housing developments, but there is also a real attempt not to completely “pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”