They paved paradise: Preservation of farmland goal of Davie group

Published 9:04 am Thursday, March 31, 2022

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

Henry Walker sees it everywhere he goes.

Actually, the lifelong farmer sees “it” underneath where he’s looking.

It’s farmland.

And it’s being swalloped up in record numbers by businesses and home builders.

Speaking before county commissioners just prior to the board approving updates to the voluntary agricultural districts in the county, Walker came with statistics, including one that hit home locally – solar generating facilities.

“Acres lost to solar facilities is more than the land that has been put into permanent easement (to prevent development) in North Carolina,” he said. “Once the solar goes down, it’s an industrial park, it’s not a farm no more.”

That number is high, because last year, more than 17,000 acres of land was put into permanent easement in the state.

“We have things taking up farmland … and I’m not opposed to all of that.” He mentioned the Apple complex in Research Triangle Park, an Amazon warehouse in Smithfield, and a Toyota plant in Randolph County.

“All of this takes up farmland. You know, it’s not only the plants, it’s all the people who will be coming for housing. We all go to eat. We can’t pave everything and we all need to keep that in mind,” he said. “Agriculture is important.”

Eddie Leagans, chair of Davie’s ag district board, said the ordinance changes reflect changes to state regulations. He said there are 59 farms in Davie County in the program, protecting from development some 6,951 acres.

“The purpose is to promote agricultural values and the general welfare of the county. More specifically, it creates identity pride in agricultural communnities and it’s way of life, encourages the economic and financial health of agriculture, horticulture and forestry … and to decrease the likelihood of legal disputes such a nuisance actions between farm owners and their neighbors.”

Board members unanimously approved the changes.

Mark Jones said that in his lifetime, the number of dairy farms in Davie Countuy went from some 200 to none.

“We want to grow, we want to progress. But we have to eat. Farms feed us, we can’t lose site of that,” Jones said.