Brandon Hensley has no illusions about farm life in WNC — it’s hard work, with sparse financial rewards. However, a deep connection to his family’s land kept him working with SAHC over the lengthy 5-year process to permanently protect a beautiful, productive farm in an area pinched by increasing residential development.
In March 2019, we closed on the conservation easement protecting the 118-acre Ridgeview Farm in Buncombe County. Located just 2 miles from our Community Farm, this historic homestead farm contains a high percentage of agriculturally important soils. Brandon, a young farmer in his mid-30s, is carrying on his family’s legacy as the 5th generation to work this land.
“I owe it to my family,” he shares. “My main goal was just to keep the heart of the farm together. My grandparents’ homeplace is here.”
Although the original log cabin is long gone, Brandon remembers it as a child, growing up with a close connection to his grandparents and the land.
“I think my grandfather would be very happy,” he continues. “My grandparents farmed for a living – that was their life. I wanted to do the conservation easement so that this land will stay this way – it will be protected forever. ”
Currently used for hay and cattle production, the NC Century Farm was formerly the site of dairy operations. The family contacted SAHC about a conservation easement because they wanted to keep the land in the family, continue to farm it, and protect it from development.
“In the next few years, if building keeps going as it is, there won’t be any farms left around Asheville,” adds Hensley.
The protected farm tract contains 93% important agricultural soils, which are a precious commodity in the mountains.
“Alexander is a rare gem in WNC, containing a much higher concentration of important agricultural soils than the surrounding region,” says Farmland Program Director Jess Laggis. “But it is also disproportionately under development pressure due to its ease of access from Asheville, the relative ease of development on low-lying bottomlands, and the undeniable beauty of the mountain views from its rolling hills. And yet, despite these pressures, Alexander remains a relatively intact farming community. Only time can tell, but Alexander has the potential to provide a model for sustainable food production with residential areas in close proximity to productive farms. All of these factors make it an important and fascinating place to focus farmland preservation efforts. I am deeply grateful to Brandon Hensley and the Bridges family for their commitment to conservation and their decision to protect this property forever.”
This project was made possible with grant funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, NC Agriculture Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, Buncombe County, and the Conservation Trust for NC, in addition to support from SAHC members, a generous gift by Brad and Shelli Stanback, and donation of a substantial portion of the easement value and stewardship contribution from the landowners.
Thank you to all our members for making this farmland conservation success possible!