One thing that is most concerning to farmland owners is what may happen to their land when it is passed on to someone else’s hands. Will it remain in farmland? Will this beautiful land be transformed into a bustling development? This can often be worrisome to farmers but luckily, there are measures farmland owners can take to ensure their land is preserved for future generations. Conservation Easements, a restriction placed on a piece of land to protect its resources, are wonderful tools for farmers to use. Conservation Easements are legally binding agreements in which landowners donate or sell their land to a private organization or a public agency that ensures their land and its resources will be preserved for generations to come.
Don Smart, a local Haywood County farmer, continues to use his family farm that has been in operation for over 70 years. “He has a long history of being a good steward to the land,” said employees of Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District. “Mr. Smart is often found actively working to protect water quality and soil integrity, proving this through the many roles he plays whether it’s the Farm Bureau or his partnership with the Soil and Water District.” Over the years, Smart’s land has been used for several agriculture purposes such as corn, tobacco, pasture, and row crops. It is currently being used to pasture 38 head of beef cattle as well as growing crops like silage corn, cabbage, and tobacco. Smart’s farmland borders the NC Scenic Byway, which makes it a prime location for developers to set their sights on. In 2016, Smart decided to place 50 acres of farmland under a permanent Conservation Easement. By doing this, Smart not only saved his land from future development but also placed over 2,000 feet of Richland Creek under protection. With the help of Haywood County Soil & Water Conservation District and Southwestern NC RC&D Council, Smart was able to do this smoothly and efficiently. “This substantial easement on 50 acres of prime farmland achieves many conservation goals, from protection of hydric soils to protection of over 2,000 feet of Richland Creek to continued local food production,” said employees of Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District. “With the help of landowners like Mr. Smart, Haywood County is able to retain its heritage as an agricultural community.”
Funds for the Conservation Easement were granted by the North Carolina Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFP Trust Fund). The grant was matched by landowner contributions and in-kind services from the Haywood Soil and Water Conservation District and Southwestern NC RC&D Council. This Conservation Easement is an easement that protects farming and forestry operations to prosper as working lands into the future.