ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — An Asheville group has received $8 million to preserve farmland in western North Carolina.
Blue Ridge Forever is getting the money from the U.S. Agriculture Department to preserve farmland that might otherwise be developed for other uses, the Asheville Citizen-Times (http://avlne.ws/2iZjcwM) reported.
Blue Ridge Forever is a coalition of 10 local land trusts.
Blue Ridge Forever director Jess Laggis says it's taken years to build relationships with groups in the area to make the proposal for the funds.
"It's a record amount of funding for Blue Ridge Forever and a record for land protection in Western North Carolina," Laggis said.
Western North Carolina lost nearly 700 farms between 2007 and 2012.
Another $8 million is going to the nonprofit Resource Institute of Winston-Salem for stream restoration and water quality improvements.
Resource Institute provides project oversight and grant administration, working with county Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service field staff and local farmers on projects to stabilize streams and prevent bank erosion by planting native grasses and shrubs, and by reducing runoff from cattle waste and sediment into streams.
"We are beside ourselves at the funding to keep mountain farms farming, and so gratified the region is receiving national recognition for its importance as a freshwater source for the Southeast," Laggis said.
Blue Ridge Forever plans to use the $8 million to protect mountain farms from a change in land use through voluntary agricultural conservation agreements.
Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com