Wake County possesses a strong farming tradition and a viable agricultural economy. Long driven by tobacco production, Wake agriculture has undergone a transformation over the past decade with the emergence of a diverse farming sector integrating traditional field crop production with local marketing opportunities in horticulture and agritourism. The County is seeking to promote its farms and protect its agricultural resources in the face of dramatic changes in the farm economy and increasing growth pressure from residential development in the Piedmont region.
Local farms provide a number of economic, environmental, and cultural benefits to Wake County. They play a major role in protecting water quality in the area. New opportunities are emerging for farms to sell food and services in the local marketplace, yet agricultural operations require a stable land base to innovate and make new investments. As an awardee of an Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) grant, Wake County is now positioned to be proactive in its support of farming, forestry, and land conservation by developing a plan to coordinate future efforts to sustain local agriculture. The completion of this plan will also increase the ranking score and lower cost-share requirements for future applications to the ADFPTF.
The steps of an effective planning process that will be used to develop the Wake County Farmland Protection and Local Food Enhancement Plan are:
- Gather data and solicit community input to create a unique and specific farmland protection and local food enhancement plan;
- Advise Wake County political and business leaders on land use planning an economic development policy initiatives that can help support the success of local farms and the enhancement of the local food system;
- Develop specific milestones and target dates for implementing the plan’s recommendations, thus assuring accountability and successful outcomes.
This plan will be developed by a collaboration of four professionals with a diversity of experience in North Carolina land use and famring issues. Mike Ortosky, of Soil and Environmental Consultants, is a Registered Landscape Architect and Licensed Soil Scientist. Tony Kleese, of Earthwise Company, has twenty years of experience in developing a sustianable food system for the Carolinas. Andres Branan, JD, is the Executive Directorof the North Carolina Farm Transition Network, helping families keep their farms in agriculture as they pass to the next generation. Gerry Cohn, former Southeast Director for American Farmland Trust, has helped Durham, Alamance, and Buncombe Counties create and implement local agricultural development and farmland protection plans.
The most important piece of the creation of this plan will be interviews with key stakeholders and feedback from the public. We are interested in hearing your ideas of what Wake County could do to strengthen connections between farmers and local marketing opportunities. If you are a farmer, we’d like to know what you need to be successful on your farm and barriers you face as you seek to develop new enterprises. Please contact us with your idas, thoughts, and feedback. Contact Tony Kleese at 919-622-5897 or email wakefarmplan (at) gmail (dot) com.