Rogers Cove – 385 Acres

Hugged by mountains and tucked away in the scenic Crabtree community of Haywood County, Rogers Cove contains beautiful rolling pastures and forested hills that stir the imagination. We have permanently protected 385 acres of productive, scenic farmland in this cove through agricultural conservation easements.

“The Rogers family has farmed this land for at least four generations and wanted to see it stay farmland forever, which is why they protected their land with SAHC through agricultural easements,” says Jess Laggis, SAHC’s Farmland Protection Director. “Beyond all the beauty and ecosystem services this land protection provides, it also supports some of the kindest farmers you could meet in maintaining our mountain farming heritage.”

Highly visible from scenic drives along Crabtree Mountain Rd and Upper Crabtree Road, as well as from hikes on Crabtree Bald, conserved land in this picturesque cove is made up of multiple adjoining tracts owned by members of the Rogers family. The family has farmed this cove for over 150 years.  Designated a NC Century Farm, the Rogers Cove properties include a mixture of high elevation cattle grazing pasture and prime agricultural bottomlands.

“Rogers Cove makes time travel possible,” says SAHC Farmland Protection Director Jess Laggis. “Walking through Rogers Cove feels like a step back in time, but in it, I also see the future. I know that in 10 years, or even 50, when I look back at the farmland protection work SAHC has accomplished, Rogers Cove will always stay a vibrant memory.  This is one of the first farmland protection projects that I was lucky enough to get to work on, and I am so grateful to be able to play a small role in protecting it.”

Family members Edwin & Lucene (Cenie) Rogers, Mark & Laura Rogers, and Terry & Fran Rogers worked together with us to protect their adjoining properties. Sadly, Edwin passed away in 2017, before he saw completion of this effort; we are deeply grateful that the family was able to continue working with SAHC to permanently protect the land.

Edwin Rogers, who was designated a River Friendly Farmer by the Haywood County Soil & Water Conservation District, farmed in Rogers Cove his whole life. Edwin and his son Mark worked closely together to keep the farm in excellent condition by installing stream-side fencing and water tanks and using rotational grazing practices. Terry Rogers also installed best management practices on his farm to protect water quality of streams in the Pigeon River watershed. The Pigeon River Fund, a grant program administered by The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, provided support for this project.

Terry — who has been president  of the Haywood County Farm Bureau, Treasurer of the Haywood County Cattlemen’s Association, and president of the WNC Beef Cattle Commission — has also farmed in Rogers Cove his whole life. Terry inherited the property from his mother, who worked the land all her life and was the granddaughter of famed community doctor and banker Rachel Eleanor Ferguson Noland, a pioneering woman who traded livestock, farmed, and worked in her loomhouse to make a living for her family. Rachel Eleanor served as a community doctor, taking her little black satchel with her when neighbors asked her to come and “doctor” their sick. She also served as a community banker, loaning money out to neighbors so they could buy a farm, build a house, or pay their bills, collecting a little interest in return. Most of these folks had no collateral, so could not qualify for a formal loan from an established bank.  Eleanor enabled many families to have their own home.

We are grateful to all of SAHC’s members, the Rogers family, The Pigeon River Fund, Brad and Shelli Stanback, and the NC Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund for protecting this historically important, thriving farm. Thank you!

Landowner Perspective: Mark Rogers

“There were three basic things which prompted our family to preserve this farm land. Foremost, the belief that protecting farmland is important for future generations. Also there is the sentimental factor for protecting property that has been in the family for a long time. And last, just the aesthetics’ of farm land vs. a subdivision.

This land today is a summation of all of what my ancestors have invested into it over the past 4+ generations. I think of the clearing of the timber to make areas to seed into hay fields and pastures for their livestock. You try to understand how that supported their milk cows and horses, which in turn supported their existence. Also the hard work with axes, cross cut saws, horses, etc. — “the good, hard old days”.

This land is still used as it was with my early ancestors and I would hate to see that change to another use that would not complement and build on what’s already gone into it. I am also sensitive to farmland reduction in the past 100 yrs and how that can effect food sustainability. When I came along, horses were still used for light work like cultivating tobacco but tractors had taken over the heavy work like plowing the corn land. I remember the talk about how you had to feed a work horse “a plenty” if you expected it to plow all day. Thus a lot of the corn grown was used back as feed fuel for the work horses. Conservation of energy makes sense considering it takes the same amount of corn energy as diesel energy to plow a furrow. I think of how hard it was to plow up and rotate crops every other year with legumes to get nitrogen into the soil because there was no petroleum based fertilizer. So if there continues to be less acreage and petroleum (being a finite resource for plant food); farmland will only continue to be more important in the future.

I truly relished the lifestyle offered by growing up on a farm and having relatives and good neighbors all around. As children we were free to roam without any concerns of safety. When I was 4 yrs old I remember deciding to run away from home — for no apparent reason. It was a sunny winter morning where the overnight frost was just melting as I trudged through the woods to the ridgeline between our house and my grandparents. I walked down to a barn where my uncle was sacking up silage and when I told him I was running away he did not even look up but told me to go by and say goodbye to my grandmother before I left. So when I walked up to her house and told her, all she said was to have a sausage biscuit before I left. Somehow, I forgot that I was running away.

Also I watch as adjacent farms are sold and developed. I see how the dynamics of “community” of the people change with it.

I want my actions to continue to be a good steward of this property in the same fashion my ancestors did.

Farmland Conservation and Clean Water

Site visit in Rogers Cove (L to R): Alison Davidson (Pigeon River Fund committee member), Laura Rogers (Landowner), Jess Laggis (SAHC), Tara Scholtz (CFWNC), and Dyatt Smathers (Pigeon River Fund committee member).

“One focus of the Pigeon River Watershed Plan is reducing development density on steep mountain slopes,” says Tara Scholtz, Senior Program Officer with The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina (CFWNC).

“Reducing development density means fewer roads, house sites, driveways, and other structures and infrastructure that negatively affect the watershed. Reducing density also reduces the number and size of impervious surfaces in the watershed and the associated stormwater runoff.  Farmland conservation is one of the plan’s specific strategies for reducing development density, but transactions to conserve farmland often take time. The Pigeon River Fund was pleased to assist SAHC in protecting hundreds of acres of Rogers Cove agricultural land that would otherwise undoubtedly be a target for future development.”

Hump Mtn Transfer to Cherokee Nat’l Forest

Close-up of fall leaves on the meadow on the Hump Mountain conservation property.

We have transferred 324 acres on the TN slopes of Hump Mountain to the Cherokee National Forest in the Highlands of Roan, the upper edge of the property extends just 500 ft from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT). Nearby, the AT passes across the grassy balds atop Hump Mountain, affording hikers breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape.

“This is an outstanding example of how federal, state and private partners can work together to achieve common goals,”said JaSal Morris, Forest Supervisor, Cherokee National Forest.  “The purchase is a great addition, not only to the Cherokee National Forest land base, but to the entire National Forest System. It will be managed for protection of its exceptional natural resources and the public’s enjoyment of its scenic beauty.”

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Landowner Perspective: Elk Fork

 

Landowner Perspective: Russ and Stacy Oates on Protecting Elk Fork

“Stacy and I came from families that love the outdoors and feel deep connection with wild things and wild places. Growing up on opposite coasts (Stacy in the Napa Valley of California and me in eastern North Carolina), we were both fortunate to have many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the wonders of Nature. We were married in 1984 and, 4 months later, moved to Alaska where I worked as a Wildlife Biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Our two daughters were born in Fairbanks in 1986 and 1988, and we settled into family life.   In 1995, we decided it was time to get some financial advice to ensure that we could afford to send the girls to college and have a chance of being able to retire. The first thing our new financial advisor said to us was “What are your dreams?” Stacy and I shared an interest in wild lands conservation, so we told the advisor about our dream to protect some woodland. His immediate response was “Buy it now or you never will.” Read more

Brushy Knob in the Seven Sisters

In 2018, SAHC purchased 123 acres near Black Mountain, NC, permanently protecting the crest of one of the “Seven Sisters.” Brushy Knob is also known as “Big Piney.” It is the third Sister in the chain of summits straddling the Asheville watershed and Montreat, counting from the southwest to the northeast.

Our purchase of this tract will protect the western flank of Brushy Knob from ever being developed as real estate. Its eastern slopes are already protected by a conservation easement that we have held since 2004 on the 2,450-acre Montreat wilderness.

Brushy Knob is one of a tight cluster of peaks south of Greybeard Mountain that are officially named the Middle Mountains on USGS maps, but which are more commonly known as the Seven Sisters. These mountains form a prominent beloved part of the view from the Town of Black Mountain, the Craggy Mountains, and Swannanoa area east of Asheville. Read more

Yellow Spot – 234 Acres Protected

This summer we purchased 234 acres in the Highlands of Roan, securing high elevation wildlife habitat and permanently protecting a corridor linking our Tompkins Preserve with Pisgah National Forest in Mitchell County. This acquisition at Yellow Spot protects rare plant and animal habitat, wildlife corridors, scenic views, and sources of clean water along an important high elevation ridgeline.

“This property contains a remarkable combination of features that have made it a conservation priority for decades,” explains Marquette Crockett, SAHC’s Roan Stewardship Director. “We conserve some properties to preserve exceptional water quality and native trout habitat and we protect others because they contain rare, high elevation open areas or exceptional forest habitat – but Yellow Spot has everything. It’s a microcosm of the Roan Highlands. SAHC’s acquisition of this tract secures a perfect puzzle piece, surrounded by National Forest and protecting the main spine of the Roan Massif.” Read more

526-acre Swannanoa Conservation Easement

In 2018, SAHC accepted a donated conservation easement on 526 acres in Swannanoa owned by Chemtronics, Inc. The conservation easement permanently protects land adjoining Pisgah National Forest, as well as scenic views from the Blue Ridge Parkway, I-40 and NC Highway 70.

“This landscape is important to the surrounding Swannanoa community, and we are pleased to be able to permanently protect these ridges,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “The conservation easement area provides important wildlife corridors and will create an undeveloped buffer adjoining other protected lands.”

The forested, steep slopes of the property rise to elevations over 3,580 ft. The tract adjoins a large block of contiguous, protected land in the Black Mountains that includes the Asheville Watershed, Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell State Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is located less than a mile away. The Audubon Society’s Black and Great Craggy Mountains Important Bird Area covers a portion of the property. This Important Bird Area provides habitat for a wide variety of species, including: Black-throated Blue warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Canada Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Pine Siskin, and Dark-eyed Junco. Read more

Strawberry Gap, Stony Point Conservation

We purchased 170 acres in two adjoining tracts at Strawberry Gap and Stony Point near the Eastern Continental Divide  to protect water resources, plant and animal habitat, and scenic views from public trails and scenic byways. We plan to own these properties for the long term and manage the forests to promote resilience, diversity and longevity. Read more

Marshall Watershed – 541 Acres Protected

In northwest Madison County, 541 secluded acres of forest filter miles of clean mountain streams that once provided drinking water to town residents. We worked with the Town of Marshall to permanently protect the Marshall Watershed property with a conservation easement — our sixth project to conserve municipal watershed lands. The Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded SAHC a grant to protect this tract and its outstanding water resources.

“The Town of Marshall has been committed for years to preserving the Marshall Watershed from development,” said town attorney Jamie Stokes, on behalf of the Town of Marshall. “We are proud to have finalized this project, with the assistance and dedication of SAHC, so that this beautiful landscape and the natural resources thereon will be preserved for many generations to come.” Read more

Big Rock Creek Preserve – New Addition!

We purchased 21 wooded acres in the Highlands of Roan just south of the TN border in Mitchell County, securing a gateway to connect our existing Big Rock Creek conservation properties with Pisgah National Forest.

“This is another Roan success story that protects habitat for birds and native trout – with the added benefit of providing access and educational opportunities for connecting people with land,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. Read more

Upper Roaring Creek Valley

“It is simply magical,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett, referring Roaring Creek in the Highlands of Roan. “If I were a Hellbender, this is the stream I would want to live in.”

SAHC recently acquired 142 acres at Upper Roaring Creek Valley in the Roan, to protect clean mountain streams and habitat for native trout and other wildlife. The contiguous tracts in Avery County contain a portion of Roaring Creek and its tributaries as well as undeveloped, forested land that adjoins Pisgah National Forest.

“This is one of the most incredible stretches of mountain stream,” explains Crockett. “From a biological standpoint, Roaring Creek is one of the most productive native trout streams in the state. It feeds into the North Toe River, which is home to endangered species like the Appalachian Elktoe mussel.” Read more