This year, SAHC protected a bucolic stretch of land along the Drovers’ Road Scenic Byway in Fairview. We placed 30 acres of fertile bottomland into conservation easements to safeguard the scenic vistas of the valley and working, productive agricultural land. The three adjoining tracts contain high percentages of nationally significant, prime agricultural soils, with portions actively farmed by Flying Cloud Farm and Bel Aire Farm.
“My Fairview farm holds special memories,” said landowner Popsie Lynch. “The land has been in my family for over 150 years. Over the years, this place provided home, livelihood, sustenance, and recreation for family and friends alike, offering opportunity to experience the outdoors and the beauty and tranquility of the mountains.”
These Fairview Bottomland tracts adjoin lands already in conservation easement with SAHC and near more than 1,500 protected acres in the region. 85-93% of these parcels contain nationally significant prime agricultural soils, primarily Statler loam, Toxaway loam, Rosman fine sandy loam, Rosman loam, and Dillard loam. The concentration of nationally recognized prime soils on the parcels is extremely important.
Prime soils in the Appalachian Mountains are a rare and threatened resource — only 2% of the land mass consists of prime soils, and much of that has already been converted to some other use. Prime soils take thousands of years to form through the geologic processes of flooding, freezing and thawing. Because of these soils, the Fairview Bottomland farms qualified for highly competitive federal and state conservation funds.
The project was initiated by SAHC Fairview Project Director Mike Green, who moved to the area with his wife Sydney in 2005 and became inspired by the unique conservation values embodied in the lands along this stretch of 74A. Mike’s volunteer efforts and experience gave SAHC the capacity to pursue conservation on relatively small parcels by grouping tracts together in order to protect an uninterrupted landscape along the NC Scenic Byway.
“Ordinarily it is difficult to complete conservation easements on small parcels of 5-10 acres,” says Green. “Funders generally prefer larger parcels, and the amount of work – surveys, appraisals, creation of baseline reports, drafting the conservation easement, etc. – is the same as for larger parcels. The Fairview bottomland farms competed with farms across NC for federal and state conservation funds, but because of cooperative land owners and the packaging of projects in groups of 30 acres each SAHC has been able to permanently protect 60 acres of prime soil working farms in the Ashworth Creek basin over the past five years.”
The Fairview Bottomlands conservation projects were made possible with generous contributions by Fairview residents and others in WNC who wanted to support the permanent preservation of the valley, donations by the landowners, Buncombe County, and the Federal Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program of the US Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
These agricultural conservation easements also protect 2,170 linear feet of Ashworth Creek and frontage along the NC Scenic Drovers Road Byway. Having a well-vegetated, forested buffer along Ashworth Creek protects water quality and provides important wildlife habitat, including corridors or aquatic species, small mammals and migratory songbirds.
“We treasure the unspoiled beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains, the prime soils that continue to nourish crops and pastures, and the fields, streams, and woodlands that are home to varieties of plants and wildlife,” continued Lynch. “I am so grateful to the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy for helping preserve our magnificent mountain landscapes and rich agricultural resources. Doing so requires effort and commitment, and deserves support from us all. I am thankful to know that the views through this valley will remain as magical in the years to come as they are today, thanks to the work of SAHC.
“A crucial element of any great farmland preservation effort is the people who work the land,” said William Hamilton, SAHC Farmland Program Director. “Isaiah and Annie Louise Perkinson of Flying Cloud Farm grow organically produced vegetables and fruits on two of the recently protected tracts. Their presence and hard work on the land is a testament of why protecting these tracts for continued agricultural use is important.”