With new construction taking place all over Guilford County and open space being whittled down, a longstanding “Voluntary Agricultural District” program is working in the background to help see that at least some rural space is preserved.

  Under the program, property owners in North Carolina get certain benefits if they agree to keep the land they own as open space.  At the Guilford County Board of Commissioners’ Thursday, Nov. 4 meeting, the board is expected to approve two new Voluntary Agricultural District applications that will add over 260 new acres in Guilford County to the preservation program’s rolls.

Voluntary Agricultural Districts – and the related Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural Districts – were developed by the NC Department of Agriculture to “encourage the preservation and protection of farmland from non-farm development.”

Those who enroll their land in the program can qualify for benefits such as special upkeep and preservation grants, waivers from water and sewer assessments, protection from condemnation, and enhanced benefits from NC Soil and Water Conservation District programs.

At the Nov. 4 meeting, the county commissioners will vote on the application covering about 33 acres owned by Robert and Allie Roth of Climax and  228 acres owned by Lawrence Ross of Greensboro.

Last month, the Guilford County Agricultural Advisory Board approved both applications, which now must be approved by the Board of Commissioners.

According to stats provided by the county, the approval of these two new applications would increase the number of parcels in Guilford County under the program to 424 for a total of over18,800 acres.   

The State of North Carolina started the program as part of the “Farmland Preservation Enabling Act” in 1985, which gave counties the right to create farmland preservation programs such as this one.

In 2000, Guilford County adopted a “Voluntary Farmland Preservation” ordinance that allowed the creation of these special districts in the county.

About 90 of the state’s 100 counties have established Voluntary Agricultural Districts. Statewide, more than 12,500 farms – consisting of over 875,000 acres of farms and forests – are enrolled in the program.