Buncombe farmland sees increase

Staff Report

Buncombe – As development in Buncombe County continues to surge, there has also been an increase in farmland during a five-year stretch. According to a press release from Buncombe County Government from 2012-2017, Buncombe County experienced a one-percent increase in farmland and now has more than 1,000 farms using more than 70,000 acres of land. The yield from all of those operations generates more than $48 million of market value. While that one-percent increase might not seem significant, it comes on the heels of years of losing farmland. “The demise of the tobacco program in 2004, along with the real estate boom, contributed to an increased rate of farmland loss until the recession slowed everything down,” notes County Cooperative Extension Director Steve Duckett. “New, small acreage producers and agrotourism operations are responsible for most of our growth in the last five years.”

Buncombe County has a rich history of supporting such ventures and continues to be a viable location for farming. “Access to a large population center that values local food is a big plus. We also have very fertile soil in the creek and river bottoms,” explains Duckett. “Our abundant rainfall and generally mild climate is another plus. On the negative side, our steep slopes and small field sizes make growing high value crops and livestock the most viable enterprises. Livestock can use land that is only suitable for growing grass effectively, which makes them an important component of our farm systems.” But beyond Buncombe County being a desirable location for farming, it’s an industry the County also benefits from. “One big advantage of farmland is preservation of the scenery that drives our tourism industry. Protecting our forests and water systems is another big factor,” notes Duckett. “Also, farmland uses much less public resources than developed land, so this is healthy for the public bottom line. And, of course, farmland gives us access to local, healthy food.”

Farm-related income is also up 113 percent since 2012 according to the release, along with net cash farm income which rose by 19 percent. What’s the land on these farms being used for? The report says 25% of the land is being use to grow crops, with 28% pasture land and 37 percent in woodlands leaving 10 percent for other uses.

Learn More

To learn more about the County’s bountiful harvest of farmland, the public can take a drive or bicycle ride on the Farm Heritage Trail, a scenic driving route through the rural agricultural communities of Alexander, Leicester, Newfound, and Sandy Mush in northwest Buncombe County. There’s a new, interactive Farm Heritage Trail map that lets you virtually visit and plan farm tours. Joining a CSA, visiting an agrotourism farm or supporting one of the numerous tailgate and farmers markets are also great ways to support our local agriculture, learn more fromAppalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. For more on Buncombe County’s conservation efforts visit Soil & Water’s farmland preservation website here

Farm facts about Buncombe County:

·         Total number of farms: 1,073

·         Total amount of farm acreage: 72,284

·         Average size of farm: 67 acres

·         Percent of farms that are family run: 97%

·         Percent of farms with internet access: 78%


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