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.

The six heirs of Jamie and Elspeth McClure Clark equally own the 28 acres and want to make certain that their land will be used for responsible farming in the future. Because the land is now held in a conservation easement for perpetuity, it cannot be developed for any purpose other than farming.

“We want to honor the legacy of our parents and grandparents and ensure that our viable land will be farmed for many more generations. We thank SAHC and everyone who helped make the easement possible,” said Dumont Clarke, one of the landowners.

Hickory Nut Gap Meats and Flying Cloud Farm lease this property from the Clarkes and produce a huge variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers and canned goods, as well as grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, and free-range pork.

The property includes scenic working farmland, open space, a variety of forest types, wildlife habitat for mammals and birds, abundant water flowing in Ashworth Creek and its tributaries, and prime agricultural soils. Both Flying Cloud Farms and Hickory Nut Gap Meats prioritize the health of the water, air, and land in managing the farm.

SAHC secured a $281,400 grant from the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (NCADFPTF) and a $346,100 grant from the Federal Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FFRP), part of the United States Department of Agriculture, to purchase this easement. The landowners also generously gave a $22,000 stewardship gift to cover the cost of maintaining the easement.

This is the first FFRP grant that SAHC has received and the first FFRP project in Buncombe County. The FFRP awards grants to purchase conservation easements on land with prime, unique and productive soil for the purpose of protecting topsoil from conversion to non-agricultural uses, so this project fits the bill.  One hundred percent of the soils on the tract are classified as prime and state important soils, meaning soils that are superb for growing crops.

“As professionals in the conservation community we recognize that prime bottomland soils are formed over millions of years and are rare in nature. In order to eat locally these are the soils we have to preserve, ” said William Hamilton, SAHC’s Farmland Preservation Director.

Often, farm and ranchlands are under heavy development pressure because they are usually flat, affordable, and well drained, making them obvious targets for parking lots and other development. According to the American Farmland Trust’s website we are losing more than an acre of agricultural land to development per minute each and every day.

Agricultural conservation easements like this one help to prevent our prime bottomland soils from being developed and preserve them so that present and future generations can have access to healthy, local food.

“SAHC is so excited and proud about being able to preserve prime bottomland soils on a working farm that provides a significant amount of food to local consumers and a successful partnership with the FFRPP and NCADFPTF to permanently set this land aside for healthy agriculture,” notes Hamilton. “Working with the employees of the US Department of Agriculture and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to make this happen was a great experience. We are eager to duplicate this throughout our service area.”