Rowan has a chance to increase farmland preservation

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 27, 2017

By Amy-Lynn Albertson

Rowan County Extension Director

The 2017 Census of Agriculture will be sent out by the USDA in December for farmers to complete. Producers can mail in their completed form or respond online via an improved web questionnaire. The updated online questionnaire can be used on any device and can be saved and revisited as the producer’s schedule allows.

The census of agriculture is conducted once every five years. It is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agriculture data for every state and county in the country.

Farmers and ranchers, trade associations, governments, extension educators, researchers and many others rely on the census of agriculture data when making decisions that shape American agriculture — from creating and funding farm programs to boosting services for communities and the industry. The census of agriculture is a producer’s voice, future and opportunity.

As of today, less than 1 percent of the U.S. population farms. Nearly 20 percent of the food we eat is imported from other countries.

The world population is expected to reach 10 billion people in 2050. We will need to feed all these people on the same amount of land or less than we do today. Food security is one of many reasons that farmland preservation is essential.

Rowan County is blessed with a vibrant, productive agricultural economy. Cash receipts from marketing, including crops, livestock and government payments, were more than $74 million in 2015. We have more than 1,000 farms in our county.

In 1990, Rowan County was the first in North Carolina to adopt an ordinance to help protect farms with the creation of Voluntary Agriculture Districts. We have 200 farms and more than 11,000 acres enrolled in this program.

Voluntary Agriculture Districts is available for eligible farms in Rowan County. Benefits include recognition and public education about agriculture, including signage; increased protection from nuisance suits including noise, odor, dust or slow-moving farm vehicles; waiver of water and sewer assessments; public hearings by the Agricultural Advisory Board for proposed land condemnation; and increased eligibility for funding.

To be eligible to enroll, you need to own farm or forestland that qualifies for the Present Use Value Program. The land must be a minimum of 5 acres of horticultural production, 10 acres of agriculture or 20 acres of forestland that is managed for timber production.

The land must be managed with the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s defined erosion control practices to treat the highly erodible land. A Voluntary Agricultural District member will be subject to a non-binding conservation agreement between Rowan County and the landowner that prohibits non-farm use or development for at least 10 years, except for the creation of no more than three lots that meet the county zoning and subdivision regulations.

You may revoke the agreement any time with a written notice to the Agricultural Advisory Board. This program is voluntary and a win-win for anyone who wants to keep their land in agriculture.

The Rowan County Agricultural Advisory Board has five board members appointed by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

If you would like more information about the districts, call the Extension Office at 704-216-8970.

Museum fundraiser

There will be a fundraiser Nov. 4 at the Country Life Museum in Sloan Park. This museum helps to preserve Rowan County’s farming heritage. A yard sale inside the museum begins at 6:30 a.m. A live auction will be from 10 a.m.-noon, with live bluegrass and gospel music from noon-2 p.m. There will be chicken and dumpling plates for $8 with carry out available.

All proceeds go to aid in the completion of the Country Life Museum. For more information about the museum, contact the Carolina Antique Power Association at