RICHMOND, VA (VR) — Five localities have been awarded a total of $875,000 from the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund to protect prime farm and forest land from development.
Losing working farms and forests to development can weigh heavily on many Virginia producers’ minds. The commonwealth is home to more than 43,000 farms, and development from housing and urban sprawl can put many of those farms at risk.
By providing matching funds that support local purchase of development rights programs, the state’s Farmland Preservation Program empowers localities to limit development on farm and forest land that each community has deemed a conservation priority. The program also provides incentives to landowners who want to voluntarily protect their working land.
This year’s five localities are Clarke County, Chesapeake, Fauquier County, Stafford County and Virginia Beach.
“These localities have consistently recognized the importance of ensuring working farms and forestlands are around for generations to come,” said Stefanie Taillon, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation associate director of governmental relations. “Local option farmland preservation programs can be a valuable tool to help interested landowners protect their land from development pressures.”
In Fauquier County, Ken Smith of Cool Lawn Farms has used the PDR program to preserve farmland in his rapidly growing community.
“I used it as a tool to buy more farmland,” Smith said. “What money I acquire from the purchase of development rights (program) gives me the down payment to buy the next farm and put that land in easement. We’ve grown from 278 acres to now over 1,200 acres by buying additional farmland surrounding us.”
He said it’s also helped him offset costs from capital improvements and allowed him to expand his dairy business into a creamery.
The program conserves working farms and forests indefinitely, and that allows farmers like Smith to pass the land and their legacy on to the next generation.
The program is operated by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Since the program’s inception in 2008, a total of $13.2 million in state matching funds has been used for 16 local PDR programs to permanently protect more than 14,800 acres on 113 farms.