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Saving Farmland for Farmers

Bowditch Bottoms farm in Yancey County has been saved from development and placed into production through the support of fundholders Ken and Ida Brown.  “Most of the land in Western North Carolina that is flat and desirable is priced for development.  Farmers, in essence, can’t afford it,” explained Ken Brown.  “We don’t know anything about farming,” added Ida Brown.  “We just knew that our goal was to purchase a piece of property for the farmers who couldn’t afford it.” 

The Browns contacted Elizabeth Brazas to explore their desire to purchase a farm, protect it with an easement and get farmers permanently on the land.  After doing research, she introduced them to experts at the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) and Toe River Aggregation Center Training Organization (TRACTOR), a local food hub serving farmers in five counties. 

“One of the reasons that I am personally and professionally so excited about this project is that it is completely unlike any other farmland preservation project that we’ve done,” said William Hamilton, SAHC’s Director of Farmland Preservation. 

Bowditch Bottoms farm represents a new approach to making agricultural land accessible to local farmers in areas where land prices have soared. The tract includes 25 acres of highly productive soils and a lay of the land that would have made it ripe for development.  

We are passionate about saving farmland for farmers in Western North Carolina. - Ken and Ida Brown

While pursuing the conservation easement, the Browns partnered with TRACTOR to get the land back to farmers quickly.  “TRACTOR has connections in the regional food network that make it feasible for qualified beginning farmers to continue food production at the farm,” said Carl Silverstein, SAHC’s Executive Director.  “Thanks to the Browns' generosity in securing this iconic farm for continued agricultural use, they are providing a valuable new model for making land accessible for farmers in the mountains, where high land prices have been an impediment to finding affordable places to farm.” 

The Browns have given TRACTOR a ten-year lease, and five farmers will cultivate crops on Bowditch Bottoms in 2016.  The Browns are pursuing their passion and actively looking at farms, with SAHC’s assistance, and hope to permanently protect more acreage.

Learn more about CFWNC's Food and Farming Focus area.

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