Agriculture has always played a significant role in our local identity. As a state, North Carolina is ranked third as having the most diverse agricultural economy. Here in Henderson County our traditions, geography, economy, and sense of community have been influenced by our local farming industry. But as our population continues to grow and urbanization expands, our available farmland is decreasing and being converted into development. A report from American Farmland Trust identified North Carolina as being the second-most threatened state in the nation due to loss of farmland.

The agricultural industry contributes significantly to our local prosperity. Preserving farmland has a multitude of benefits that extend beyond just food production. The economic, environmental, and cultural benefits of our agricultural industry are closely tied to our region’s success.

Economic Benefits

Food Security and Self-Sufficiency
When we think of farms, we think of food. As our population continues to grow, the demand for food increases. And as domestic farmlands decrease, we become more dependent on the global market. Like all markets the global economy is subject to market variations and conditions outside our own borders, such as political and weather disruptions. Preserving agricultural land is important for maintaining national food security, ensuring a portion of our food supply derives from local sources that are insulated from international trends.

Supports the Local Economy
By preserving farmland, we can support local economies and create job opportunities. Farmland provides a diversified economic base, allowing communities to rely on agriculture as well as other industries. According to the NC Department of Agriculture, agriculture is the state’s largest industry, contributing over $90 billion annually. The American Farmland Trust estimates that every dollar of farm sales generates an additional $1.27 in sales in other sectors of the economy. This secondary market includes such businesses as equipment and supply stores, processing and distribution plants, insurance, and animal care services.

Local farmers’ markets also benefit when farmland is preserved. The consumers benefit from fresher food, restaurants with farm-to-table menus are guaranteed local products to serve, downtowns benefit from spillover diners, and the farmers have the potential for greater revenue by saving on transportation costs.

Agritourism connects agricultural production to tourism, bringing visitors to farms and towns for the purposes of education, direct sales, or entertainment. Think u-pick apples, wine tastings, fishing and hunting expeditions, and NC Apple Festival and Farm City Day. Can you imagine Henderson County without these events and experiences?

Tax Revenue
Farmland generates tax revenue that can be used to improve infrastructure and essential services. Studies consistently show that farmland generates more local taxes than what is paid out for the government services that are used to support them. Most often the opposite is true of residential, commercial, and industrial development that require a larger investment of public dollars for services such as schools, emergency services, and road maintenance compared to their tax contribution.

Environmental Benefits

From an environmental perspective, preserving farmland plays a crucial role in maintaining biodiversity and wildlife habitats. Farms provide a home for many species of plants and animals, helping to sustain ecosystems and promote overall ecological health. Farmlands also control flooding by absorbing excess rainwater and protecting wetlands, which act as filters for water quality. Farmland acts as a natural filter for water, ensuring clean, freshwater sources. It also aids in groundwater recharge, replenishing our vital underground water supplies.

Cultural Benefits

In addition to economic and environmental benefits, preserving farmland also fosters social well-being. Farms contribute to the cultural identity of our communities and preserve our rural heritage. They create a strong sense of community and connection. Farmland preservation also promotes healthier lifestyles, as access to fresh, locally grown food becomes more accessible. We also enjoy the open green spaces, bucolic views, and their contribution to our balanced urban/rural lifestyle.

Preserving farmland is not just about food production; it's about protecting our rural heritage and preserving the cultural identity of our communities. It also enables us to support local markets and promotes agritourism, which contributes to the economic growth of rural areas. As we move towards a more sustainable future, let us continue to prioritize the preservation of farmland and create thriving communities for generations to come.