A change to Wake County’s Voluntary Agricultural District requirements could make a dramatic difference in the number of properties eligible for the program.
The program currently requires a farm to be at least 100 acres to join, or for farms within a mile of one another to band together to come up with at least 100 acres between them to become an agricultural district, but Dale Threatt-Taylor, who oversees the program as director of the Wake Soil and Water Conservation District, said she expects that requirement to be drastically lowered by the end of the year.
An Agricultural Advisory Board appointed by the Wake County Board of Commissioners has been discussing lowering the requirement to 20 acres for forested land, 10 acres for cropland and 5 acres for in-ground horticulture. Threatt-Taylor said she expects the change, which would have to be approved by the commissioners, to go into effect sometime this fall.
“That is the major hurdle for farmers wanting to get in,” Threatt-Taylor said. “There’s still a lot of land that hasn’t gotten in because they have to go talk to their neighbors and get their 50 acres, and it’s a lot easier to cook your own pot.”
David Pope, who raises strawberries and beef cattle on his 80-acre farm off Fayetteville Street in Knightdale, said he had been interested in getting into the program since it started in 2002, but he didn’t meet the minimum acreage requirement.
Pope said he would like to get his farm into the program so his neighbors in a quickly-developing town know they are near a farm and may see farm equipment on the roads. “It would just mean awareness in the area,” he said.
Donnie Woodlief said he has seen those benefits since enrolling his 310-acre farm spread across two plots near Rolesville. “That lets them know the farm was there before and what to expect,” he said of his more suburban neighbors. “There’s going to be a certain amount of dust, noise, spraying after hours.”
Benefits for farmers
Farmers wishing to participate in the program sign a simple application stating they plan to remain in farming for the next 10 years, but they can withdraw at any time. Signs are erected along the roads in agricultural districts identifying them as such. Participants are also exempt from paying assessments for water or sewer lines extended past their property.
And when someone purchases land near an agricultural district, they are notified that they should expect dust, machinery noise, animal waste, chemical odors and other conditions associated with living in a farming area.
Threatt-Taylor said there are about 6,000 acres enrolled in the program out of 121,000 acres of farm and forest land in the county, so there is great potential for the program to grow once the minimum acreage is lowered.
“This program is kind of a melding of urban and rural,” she said. “Most of our suburban folks love the open space or they wouldn’t be out there.”
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826