A Voluntary Agriculture District ordinance has been adopted by 80 counties. This means that more than three-fourths of the counties in North Carolina are actively protecting farm and forest land for future generations.
“The Voluntary Agricultural District is a state-wide program,” said Agricultural Cooperative Extension Agent Paige Burns when the program began in 2011. “It’s a farmland protection program to help keep the land in use as working land. Not just cropland, but forests, too. It’s not regulatory, we’re just promoting the importance of the farmland, for heritage reasons as well as for economic reasons.”
Burns said three-fourths of all counties have such a program, run by a board of members from each district that would represent the farmers of the region. Richmond County formed its board in 2011.
Now, two years later, Richmond County’s VAD board is receiving praise for leadership and consistency. The members of the board were appointed by the Richmond County Board of Commissioners.
At the commissioners’ regular monthly meeting earlier this week, Tommy Peacock, chairman of the VAD board, gave a presentation on the success of the board.
“I just have to brag on the board you selected,” said Peacock to the commissioners. “Most of the board is here tonight. Several counties have boards that take months to make a motion, while other counties have forgotten who their board members were. This board is now being used as a state example.”
According to Peacock, the board has applied for grants and received them, and has signed up six farms and enrolled 600 acres in the program in only two years.
“But this isn’t a rubber stamp board,” said Peacock. “One farm was denied due to clerical problems.”
Peacock said the board demonstrated strong leadership and accomplished a lot in the two years of being established. According to Peacock, Planning and GIS Director James Armstrong and Burns teamed up to create a mapping system of the farms that have joined the VAD. This has various purposes but Peacock pointed out that the website could be used as a resource for people relocating to or within the county that may not want to live or purchase land beside a farm.
You can access the interactive GIS map by going to http://gis.richmondnc.com/flexviewer/RichmondVAD/
Peacock said the board has involved the VAD in Farm City Week and set up booths at a variety of events in the county, including the county fair. They host a farmland preservation workshop as well.
“Richmond County may be small but it has strong ethics in their people,” said Peacock.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.