American Farmland Trust’s Southeast regional office has moved to a new location in Hillsborough, just 20 miles from its previous office in Graham.
Hillsborough is the seat of Orange County, which has been a pioneer in farmland protection tools in North Carolina. Orange was the first county in North Carolina to hire a local Agricultural Economic Development Coordinator, who is housed in the Economic Development Commission and the Cooperative Extension Service. The county has also been purchasing agricultural conservation easements through its Lands Legacy Program, which works with landowners and applies for state and federal funds to match the $3 million allocation provided by the county commission in 2001. Most recently, Orange County has established an incubator farm program, providing graduates of an educational series with plots of land at a research farm to cultivate a new generation of farmers.
AFT will be sharing its new office suite with the North Carolina Farm Transition Network, which continues its work to assist retiring and aspiring farmers in the effective transition of farm businesses. As one of the founding board members of NCFTN, AFT sees the urgency of helping landowners work through the challenging generational transitions that threaten so many farms around the state.
AFT and NCFTN are partnering on several projects to provide transition services that can help farmland remain in productive use. In Buncombe County in Western North Carolina, we will be working together with the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and the Cooperative Extension Service to connect beginning farmers and aging landowners—a priority identified through the local farmland protection planning process.
In addition, AFT and NCFTN are working with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture and a diverse statewide advisory council to develop a series of regional meetings over the winter to identify needs and opportunities for additional services to landowners. Partners from Farm Credit, cooperative extension, land trusts, conservation districts, and community action agencies have identified needs in estate planning, conservation easements, value-added enterprise development, taxes and insurance, as well as specific concerns of limited resource farmers.
For more information, contact Gerry Cohn of American Farmland Trust, Noah Ranells of Orange County, or Andrew Branan of the North Carolina Farm Transition Network.