MORGANTON, N.C. — On July 14, Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina helped the Calton Family permanently protect 385 acres of their family farm under an agricultural conservation easement, providing significant farmland preservation benefits in the Sunshine community of Rutherford County. With the completion of this project, the N.C. Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund reached a milestone of more than 30,000 acres of preserved farmland across the state of North Carolina.
“Foothills Conservancy is very grateful to Ann and Javan Calton and their entire family for caring about their family farm and its legacy so much and desiring to place 385 acres under permanent agricultural conservation easement,” said Tom Kenney, land protection director at Foothills Conservancy. “It has been a great pleasure for me to work with them and get to know them over the past few years since Javan first contacted me about farmland preservation.”
Using competitive grant funds awarded by State of North Carolina and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs, Foothills Conservancy purchased the conservation easement on the property from generational farm landowners Javan and Ann Calton, who share a goal of keeping the property as farmland in perpetuity. This historic beef and former dairy farm has been in operation for well over 120 years. Javan has worked the farm his entire life, taking over the primary responsibilities of the farm in 1965 after he and Ann married. Before that, his father and grandfather had both worked on the land, dating back to before 1900.
“We’ve owned this land for longer than I really know,” Javan Calton said. “My father, my grandfather, and all through the line. We’ve been able to add some extra acres to the farm, and we’ve all worked the farm in different ways. We want to keep the farm as a farm, and as a Calton farm. We’d like for it to stay in the Calton name.”
“The main thing is just to make sure that the farm stays a farm,” Ann said, noting that freedom from the possibility of losing the land to development gave the couple peace of mind. “The conservation easement ensures that the land can never be developed, that it won’t eventually become a housing development instead of a beautiful farm.”
This project was completed in partnership with the Farmland Preservation Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which administers the Agricultural Development & Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, and has a goal of helping farms to remain as farms. Thanks to the Calton’s conservation efforts, and with the completion of this specific project, the division has protected over 30,000 acres of farmland across North Carolina. The work of Farmland Preservation goes beyond just the interests of those personally working the land, however. The benefits of keeping open land open can extend to everyone.
“We’re also able to link this piece, Farmland Preservation, into other conservation programs,” Evan Davis, Farmland Preservation Division director said. “I think folks in North Carolina are seeing the change in population growth. I think, day-to-day, they are seeing increases in traffic, new housing developments and things like that. Those are things that everyone can see,” Davis said. “It is important for us to continue this work because we help maintain the livelihoods of farmers and foresters, and we are able to maintain these types of green spaces.”
This project was also funded by a large grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service division’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. Moving forward, Foothills Conservancy will work together with the Calton family to steward the property, monitoring environmental quality, while the farm continues normal operations.
Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina is a nationally accredited regional land trust that inspires conservation in Western North Carolina by permanently protecting land and water for the benefit of people and all living things. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Foothills Conservancy has conserved more than 65,000 acres in its eight county service area: Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cleveland, Lincoln, McDowell and Rutherford, in three major river basins: the Broad, Catawba and Yadkin. Information about Foothills Conservancy, including ways to support its work, can be found online at www.foothillsconservancy.org or by calling 828-437-9930.