View of Celo Knob from Bowditch Bottoms

Bowditch Bottoms – 87 Acres

Bowditch Bottoms with Celo Mtn in background

Bowditch Bottoms with Celo Knob in the background, photo by Catherine Pawlik, Carolinas’ Nature Photographers (CNPA)

The Bowditch Bottoms project has been a long time in the process – beginning in 2014 – and we are thrilled that it successfully closed in June! This 87-acre property in Yancey County contains important soils, farmland, undeveloped forested and non-forested habitat for wildlife, headwaters to the South Toe River, and intact wetland and riparian corridors. It is visible from the Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway and several higher-elevation vantage points in the Black Mountains and the Highlands of the Roan.

Map of Bowditch Bottoms near Micaville“The agricultural conservation easement on Bowditch Bottoms permanently protects the property, ensuring that it will be available for farming for generations to come,” says Farmland Program Director Jess Laggis. “The land contains a high concentration of prime agricultural soils, which are very rare in Western North Carolina.  In this region only 2% of the soils are considered prime.  The permanent status of productive farmland and its availability for crop production to vegetable farmers will build up and support local food infrastructure vital to food security and to the long term security of the agricultural economy in western North Carolina.”

Farm fields for vegetable production

Fertile fields, photo by Kathleen Brannan CNPA

With farmland rapidly disappearing in the Western North Carolina mountains, Ken and Ida Brown approached SAHC several years ago with an exciting plan to purchase farmland and make it available to farmers who could not otherwise afford it. They are passionate about protecting farmland for present and future generations, and wanted to invest in something that could make an impact on the community. After purchasing the Bowditch Bottoms property, Ken and Ida made it available through a 10-year lease to local farmers in TRACTOR Food and Farms, a non-profit food hub located in Burnsville, NC. TRACTOR (Toe River Aggregation Center Training Organization Regional, Inc) trains farmers to meet federal requirements for food handling and safety, gives them the opportunity to attend free seminars on production planning and post-harvest handling, and provides access to shared use equipment and packaging facilities.

Ayles Creek

Ayles Creek, photo by Kathleen Brannan CNPA

Ayles Creek and two of its tributaries run through the property. Conservation of the land protects these water sources which flow into the South Toe River, a popular river for trout fishing.

The conservation of the Bowditch Bottoms property was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Agricultural Land Easements. We are very grateful to landowners Ken and Ida Brown, philanthropic leaders Brad and Shelli Stanback, and SAHC members for helping to protect this special place and secure agricultural land for the region!

Landowner Perspective: Ken and Ida Brown

Ken and Ida Brown sought out SAHC because they wanted to help conserve farmland and make it affordable for farmers to continue to use the land in perpetuity.

pant sprout

Vegetable sprout, photo by Catherine Pawlik CNPA

“We had been involved in philanthropy for several years, but this kind of farmland conservation project was new to us,” shared Ken and Ida. “We’d read a series of articles about the difficulties that farmers are facing and how rising land prices are being pushed out of range for them. It’s becoming more and more difficult for farmers to make a living, to compete with large corporate farms and make enough money to support themselves and their families. So, we wanted to buy a tract of farmland and make it available for farmers to use, and to permanently protect the land with an agricultural conservation easement.”

“We started off with SAHC looking for land with good soils, and we discovered this gorgeous piece of property in Yancey County, which contained prime soils and a beautiful stream running through it. Everything about this process was new to us – learning how to deal with different government agencies, learning good agricultural practices (GAP) to ensure that product coming off the land was suitable for distribution.”

After purchasing the property, Ken and Ida worked with the TRACTOR food hub in Burnsville, NC to manage it.

Farmer on Tractor at Bowditch Bottoms, photo by Catherine Pawlik

Farmer on Tractor at Bowditch Bottoms, photo by Catherine Pawlik

“TRACTOR makes the property available to local farmers to use; they make all the arrangements with the farmers and the food produced goes through the TRACTOR program for distribution,” say Ken and Ida. “It’s working very well.”

“In protecting this land for farming, we have been able to preserve an important part of heritage in this part of state, but this process has also opened our eyes toward how hard it is for farming families to prosper and hand down land through the generations. Bowditch Bottoms had been handed down for many generations; we purchased the land from an elderly couple, and they were overjoyed that it was gong to continue to be farmland and have a conservation easement on it.”

“As philanthropists, it’s been a rewarding experience to get to know the farmers and folks in Yancey County, and to know that this land will stay the way that it is and won’t be developed. One of the best parts of this whole endeavor has been getting to know SAHC and Carl in particular. The relationship with SAHC has been wonderful.”