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Land donation ensures 100-acre working farm protected forever

Property to be an educational resource for agricultural community

ALEXANDER — A 100-acre farm in Alexander is now permanently protected from development, thanks to a recent land donation to Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. The property's rolling cattle pastures, stands of hardwood trees, and headwater streams, which are tributaries to the French Broad River, will continue to be a resource for future generations.

The land trust is drafting a conservation agreement for the property, and anticipates reselling it to a conservation-minded buyer. The intent is for it to remain productive farmland that offers educational opportunities to the agricultural community. The organization is exploring ways to enhance the quality of the streams and woodlands of the property.

"A donation of a tract of land is doubly beneficial," said Carl Silverstein, Executive Director of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. "We will place a conservation easement on the deed, which will guarantee the qualities of the property will be protected forever. Then, reselling the property will generate extra revenue for the organization, which we can recycle back into conservation work."

Silverstein and Associate Director Kristy Urquhart first started talking to the 97-year-old landowner 10 years ago. That was Silverstein's first year on the job as Executive Director as well as his first visit with a potential land donor.

“Seeing this farm permanently protected a decade after we first met the family is deeply rewarding,” said Silverstein.

The landowner, who wishes to remain anonymous, purchased the property in the 1950s and immediately started working with local Extension Agents, the Soil & Water Conservation District, and the N.C. Division of Forest Services to learn how to farm the land while conserving its natural systems. It was one of the first properties in Buncombe County to have a conservation plan.

While sitting in her Hendersonville retirement village, the landowner recently reminisced about the generous support she and her late husband received from the community. "Before I came to Asheville, I just thought a farm was a garden – everything was free," she said. She soon realized the hard work and emotional investment involved in maintaining a piece of property and a cattle herd of 58 head.

All of that help spurred her to want to do something with the land to benefit the community, which is when she contacted SAHC. "I like to be part of progress," she said.

That community assistance has come full circle, as SAHC is now reaching out to N.C. Cooperative Extension and the Soil & Water Conservation Districts to explore holding educational workshops for the agricultural community on the property.

"I think it's great that SAHC can continue the partnership that she started," Urquhart said.

In the meantime, the house on the property will provide housing for AmeriCorps members that volunteer for SAHC. Each year, the organization works with four AmeriCorps volunteers, who provide stewardship, public outreach and land transaction assistance.

“Living on this farm will give a local AmeriCorps Program member a real-life opportunity to experience a working mountain farm and to see the values of our work first hand,” Urquhart said.

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The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy is a volunteer-based non-profit organization working to conserve the clean water, unique plant and animal habitat, farmland and scenic beauty of the mountains of NC and TN for the benefit of present and future generations. In the last three decades, the conservancy and its 1,500 members have protected close to 50,000 acres, including key sites adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along the Blue Ridge Parkway and in the Highlands of Roan. Its headquarters is in Asheville, NC and the field office is in Kingsport, TN. To learn more about SAHC, visit www.appalachian.org.

SAHC is a part of Blue Ridge Forever, a collective campaign led by local land trusts and national conservation organizations to engage the public and raise financial resources to safeguard land and water in the Southern Blue Ridge for present and future generations. For more information, see www.blueridgeforever.info.


For more information, contact: Carl Silverstein, SAHC Executive Director, (828) 253-0095 or carl@appalachian.org