Leicester – Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Farm Heritage Trail has won the National Association of Counties’ Achievement Award for creating and implementing the trail.
The Farm Heritage Trail is a scenic driving route through the rural agricultural communities of Alexander, Leicester, Newfound and Sandy Mush in northwest Buncombe County. The public is welcome to travel the public roads of this trail and enjoy viewing the conserved family farms, with designated signage, that is along the route. The entire route is a leisurely two-hour drive while enjoying farm stops along the way. Trail riders may choose to follow the specific route or enter and exit at any point, selecting farms they may want to drive by or visit along the way.
“We appreciate this national recognition of our Farm Heritage Trail. We initiated this effort to increase awareness of our farmland conservation efforts and support our farms. It is vital to Buncombe County’s future that we have strong and resilient family farms; therefore, we must conserve farmland, and we must ensure that our farms are economically viable. The Farm Heritage Trail provides an opportunity for both Buncombe County residents and tourists to visit and support our farms, as well as learn about our conservation efforts,” said Terri Wells, Buncombe County Agricultural Advisory Board, Vice-Chair.
The Farm Heritage Trail recognizes the importance of protecting farmland, honoring agricultural heritage and supporting the future of agricultural operations within Buncombe County. Through agritourism, the trail informs citizens and tourists about the importance of our local food system, and that in order to protect our viewsheds, we must protect our farmland. This project’s outcome is a stronger agritourism community within the county, a network of farmers for the public to connect to, and increased awareness of the experiences offered on farms in Buncombe County.
“This award shows how Buncombe County’s farmland preservation efforts stand out nationally and that the Farm Heritage Trail is a prime example of the innovativeness and resourcefulness of the county,” states Ariel Zijp, Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District Farmland Preservation Coordinator. “The Farm Heritage Trail was launched in 2016 in the Northwest of the county and continues to grow with future plans to expand to a county-wide trail. This is a model that can be replicated nationwide to encourage agritourism and the protection of farmland.”
Buncombe County Soil and Water Conservation District’s mission is to conserve the soil, water and natural resources of Buncombe County by providing education, technical assistance, economic incentives and farmland preservation to meet changing needs. The Farmland Preservation Program encourages the voluntary preservation and protection of farmland from non-farm development and supports the agricultural heritage and economic success of the farming community within Buncombe County.
Right: Photos courtesy of Farm Heritage Trail