Brothers Ed and Keith Wood have conserved more than 250 acres of their Cherokee County family farm, passing the halfway point to conserving 400 acres of working farmland in the Valley River valley.
The Wood family has been farming the land that sits along the Nantahala Scenic Byway since the early 1900s. “The land has been a farm as long as I have been around,” says Ed. “Keith and I have made a living from it pretty much all our adult lives, and our father and grandfather before that.”
The conservation project was made possible through funding from the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, which offers compensation to farmers who choose to not develop their land. Mainspring Conservation Trust facilitated the process, which took an unusually long time. “Typically, these projects only take one to two years to complete,” Sara Posey-Davis, land conservation manager at Mainspring, says. “But Ed and Keith had a complex legal history on their farm with the highway, an unused rail line and the airport all adjacent to their land. We definitely had some ups and downs through the process, but I’m so grateful they stuck with us to preserve their farm.”
Visible from Nantahala National Forest lands in the Snowbird and Valley River Mountains, the property includes more than two miles of named and unnamed streams that are part of the Valley River Watershed. Additionally, more than 81% of the soil is considered Prime Farmland soil. “The farm is highly productive compared to other farms in the state — or even the country for that matter,” Keith Wood says. “It just makes sense for this farm to remain in food production for future generations. It’s hard to eat a building or asphalt.”
Mainspring expects to conserve the other 150 acres later this year. “As development pressures rise and demands on farmers grow, the need to protect working farmlands intensifies,” says Posey-Davis. “This century-old farm in the mountains will continue to produce outstanding crops for generations to come, and that’s something to be proud of.”
For more information about the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund grants to preserve farmland, contact Posey-Davis at Mainspring Conservation Trust via their website: www.mainspringconserves.org.