Since purchasing their farm more than 30 years ago, Joe and Geraldine have seen an increase in commercial and residential development near their Cedar Grove farmstead. Concerned that after all their years of hard work, their farm could end up being developed prompted Joe to seek a perpetual conservation easement on 40 acres of the farm to ensure their farm was not lost to development. It was critically important to Joe and Geraldine their land remained as farmland forever!
Coupled with their concern about bricks and mortar development, was the concern about Joe’s ability to continue farming at the same pace associated with tobacco farming. Having already successfully transitioned from tobacco to fresh water prawns following the USDA Tobacco Buyout program, the Thompson’s began working with the Black Family Land Trust (BFLT) to pursue a perpetual agricultural conservation easement on the farm.
On October 23, 2014, with resources from the NC Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation (ADFP) Trust Fund, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Farmland and Ranchland Preservation Program (FRPP) and Orange County Lands Legacy program, a perpetual agricultural conservation easement was closed on the Thompson Prawn Farm. This easement ensures that this farmland will forever be used for agricultural purposes. The funds Joe received allowed him to diversity the farming operations. He continues to be one of the area’s leading producers of farm raised prawns, which is far less labor intensive than tobacco. The additional benefits Joe and Geraldine realized included elimination of debt and reinvestments in the farm.
Joe summed it up best at the October easement closing, “When my time comes and I die, I can lay my dead bones down in peace knowing that my land will always be used to feed people.”
Martha Leonard-Mobley is the owner of a 925-acre agricultural farm, located in Franklin County. The land contains an 18th century home and large mule and grain barns constructed in the 1920s. Martha has a long family history in farming. At the time her grandfather purchased the original farm in 1911, it totaled 1000 acres. Since his passing in 1940, the original farm has been split among four siblings. Portions were subsequently repurchased by her parents, necessitated by the passing of an heir, who died without a will. Martha has worked diligently to recover formerly family-owned farmland. However, she realized action was necessary to keep her land in agriculture, in accordance with her family's wishes.
She decided longer-term conservation was the appropriate measure. Besides being able to keep her land in agricultural use, her 25-year conservation agreement with the BFLT:
Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. ~Aldo Leopold