SAHC at Farm Aid 2014!

10608491_10152670898941352_2143835467641210278_oOur Project Conserve AmeriCorps Land Protection Associate, Caitlin Edenfield, joined Community Farm and Food Assistant Yael Girard at Farm Aid 2014 near Raleigh this year!

In 1985, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp joined forces and organized the first Farm Aid Concert. These iconic artists were on a mission to draw attention to the increasing loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farmers on their land. Similar to SAHC’s Farmland Program, Farm Aid’s mission is to keep America’s farmers farming. 28 years after the first Farm Aid concert SAHC sent two representatives of our Farmland Program (Caitlin Edenfield and Yael Girard) to the event to promote the new  ‘Farmer Incubator Program’ on Our Community Farm. Read more

Grazing on Top of the World

fred-ted-and-jay-with-grazing-lease-and-spear-topsAccording to Ted Hoilman and his brothers, the Hoilman family has been grazing cattle atop Big Yellow Mountain for over 150 years.  “There was never a time we can remember when there weren’t Hoilmans up on the mountain,” says Ted Hoilman.  That grazing history has given conservation biologists a trove of species to study and made the Hoilmans invaluable partners for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy.

“We don’t make any money grazing cows,” explains Hoilman.  “But we were born cattle men.  We do it because it’s in our blood.  It’s our family history.”  These days that that history might be hanging by a thread, but keeping the Big Yellow herd intact and healthy is important for SAHC and our partners at The Nature Conservancy. Read more

Preserving Farms – And “A Way of Life”

Anne1Over the past few years, the terms ‘local food’ and ‘farm to table’ have gained greater and greater prominence in our daily conversations. What you may not hear as frequently, however, are some of the underlying concerns for farmland conservation – namely, that local food production requires both local farmland and successful farmers, and that not all farmland is created equal. These concerns are an integral part of the story behind two recent farmland conservation projects completed by the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC).

SAHC recently created conservation easements on two tracts of important, working agricultural lands in northwestern Buncombe County totaling 88 acres. The newly protected 52-acre Watalula Farm tract in Leicester and 36-acre portion of Duckett Farm in Sandy Mush each contain prime agricultural soils. Read more

Protecting Scenic Views, Historic Lands, and Clean Water at Hickory Nut Gap

viewfromparcela.jpgWe love the tranquil drive through Fairview along the Drover’s Road Scenic Byway. At the crest of Hickory Nut Gap, the sight of Sherrill’s Inn overlooking this scenic route recalls the 1800s, when the Flying Cloud stagecoach carried mail and passengers from Rutherfordton to Asheville, and herd drovers stopped here to rest before journeying on through the gorge.

Recognizing the historic and natural treasures of this area, we were thrilled to protect 173 acres along the Drovers Road Scenic Byway (US 74A) this past December, through conservation easements on three adjoining parcels. These conservation easements ensure that the land will be preserved forever, securing important views, habitat, and water resources right on the Eastern Continental Divide.

The three adjoining parcels are located on the Hickory Nut Gap section of the Drovers Road Scenic Byway (Highway 74A) in Fairview and are visible in the distance from the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parcels also share a long boundary with our Hickory Nut Gap Forest conservation easement, and are close to and visible from the publicly accessible Florence Preserve and Bearwallow Mountain. Read more

Fairview Bottom Lands – Local Farmland for Local Farms

fairview3.jpgIn early December, we closed on three adjoining projects in the lush Fairview valley, securing 28 acres of prime farming bottom land for agricultural use in the future. The parcels lie alongside the Drovers’ Road Scenic Byway, below a twisting ascent up the Hickory Nut Gap. Together, these projects help ensure the protection of the scenic quality of this rural landscape, as well as the availability of rare prime soils for present and future farmers.

“It was important to us to ensure the agricultural future of this land and scenic value of the valley,” said Annie Louise Perkinson of Flying Cloud Farm. “Protecting the land means it will continue to be available to provide fresh vegetables and flowers to local communities in the future.“ Read more

Jammin’ at the Gott Farm

2012-spring-031.jpgLast Thursday, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy staff members enjoyed another sensational day at Peter and Polly Gott’s idyllic farm. Tucked away deep in Madison County, the 218-acre Gott Farm is surrounded by Pisgah National Forest on two sides, there are abundant springs, wet coves full of wild edibles, viable soil for farming, and breathtaking views. Their farm is truly an ecological gem.

Our visit started out with a tour of the Gott’s log cabin, which Peter meticulously made using hand tools and historic methods. The precision and perfection of Peter’s craftsmanship was exhibited in every other building on their property as well. Peter’s tools were impeccably organized and the woodsheds were stacked so systematically, you would think the logs were books in a library. After a tour of Polly’s old art studio (which Peter also made) and their sauna by the river, the staff headed to the top of their property to enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking White Rocks and iconic Camp Creek Bald. Read more

Landowners Protect 13 Acres in Haywood County

View of PropertyRural preservation leaders in the Bethel community of Haywood County have announced the permanent protection land along Garden Creek. The property features 13 acres of largely agricultural land, which provides corn, hay, and the critical calving unit for a larger cow-calf operation. The tract also includes a residential area, a barn, and associated farm buildings. While the public will not have access to the property, the land includes more than 1,000 feet of Garden Creek, which helps provide water for downstream farmers, the Towns of Canton and Clyde, Evergreen Paper, trout, one species of rare fish, two species of rare freshwater mussels, and hellbender salamanders. Read more

The Gott Farm – Preserved Forever

Peter and Polly GottThe Gott’s 218-acre farm in Madison County is an icon of responsible land management and sustainability. Peter and Polly take seriously their responsibility of stewarding the land. Being able to hand their property down to their children intact is one of their highest priorities. To do that, they decided to put their land into conservation easements with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The first conservation easement was completed in 2002 and protected 210 acres. The farm is now protected in its entirety; the second easement was signed on April 1st, 2011, and protects the remaining eight acres, which are adjacent to Pisgah National Forest. These conservation easements assure that the land where Peter and Polly live and raised their family will be here, relatively the same, for generations to come.

“Without the conservation easements, who knows what could happen to our farm when we’re gone? said Polly. “The conservation easements ensure that nothing will happen.” The property is also within the viewshed of the Appalachian Trail and adds to the large contiguous area of protected lands in Madison County. Read more

Cataloochee Ranch: A Success Story in Haywood County

Spectacular fall colors on Hemphill BaldIn the 1990’s, 67-year-old Maggie Valley resident Tom Alexander realized that he would have to do something to be able to hand down his beloved land, 1,000 mostly undeveloped acres adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, intact to his children. The land had been in his family for 60 years, but development in Haywood County had greatly increased over the past few decades and the value of his land was doubling in value about every three to four years.

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Prime Farmland Soils Producing Local Food Preserved Forever

Prime Farmland, Fairview, NCSAHC has advanced its conservation work in the Fairview farming community by protecting 28 more acres that include productive farmland used by Hickory Nut Gap Meats and Flying Cloud Farm, two popular local farming operations. These enterprises provide local food to 4 tailgate markets, Greenlife Grocery and Earth Fare Supermarkets, and over 100 families through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.

The land adjoins the 290-acre Hickory Nut Gap Farm conservation easement, which SAHC closed in December 2008. The new easement furthers SAHC’s vision of protecting agricultural soils and working farms to secure our region’s local food production for the future. Since 2005, SAHC has protected over 3,000 acres of working farmland through its Farmland Preservation Program. Read more