Orange County Easement Helping Preserve Farmland
Posted July 9, 2001 9:39 a.m. EDT
EFLAND — These days, farmland near Research Triangle Park is more valuable as pasture for houses than horses. Rising taxes and dropping farm commodity prices are squeezing farmers out of business.
Now, Orange County is trying a new approach: Paying a farmer to keep his land a farm.
On Monday, Victor Walters, Sr. signs over his right to sell his farm to developers. In exchange, Orange County and the state will pay him $215,000.
In the 1970s, before anyone could have imagined growth in the area, Walters' daughter-in-law joined an agricultural preservation committee.
"Prime farmland is an irreplaceable physical and economic asset to Orange County," says Elizabeth Walters.
She pushed for a buy out program that pays farmers to give up their right to sell their farm to a developer. This year, the first easement in Orange County went to her father-in-law.
Walters, 92, and his son, Victor, Junior, 65, have worked the farm for decades. They think the program is an excellent way to keep it in the family.
"It helps my father's peace of mind, it helps the county to preserve some open space, and me, there's a good chance I'll never have a reason to sell it. It guarantees that I've got to continue to look after it," says Walters, Jr.
The Walters own over 400 acres of farmland. They could have sold it for as much as $20,000 an acre to a developer.
After the deal goes through, 70 acres of their farm will be permanently off limits to developers.
Half of the money for the easement will come from Orange County taxpayers, and half from the state's small farmland preservation fund.
The farm will probably make the land around it even more valuable, as farms become more and more rare in the future.