Creekside Farm has been placed into the Voluntary Agriculture District Preservation Program (VAD), protecting the land from non-farm development.
Creekside Farm is Mindful Development tied to Sustainable Farming for the future.
We all know that farmers grow food and somehow that food gets to our grocery stores. Beyond that, most people really don’t understand where that food actually came from, how far it traveled to get here, and who actually grew it (and in what country). Most people also don’t know why we should actually care about this.
The Current Farming Crisis in WNC:
Due to the rapid growth and influx of people into this area, the loss of farmland to development is changing the landscape of Buncombe County. Given the significant increase in the value of land, it has become much more financially viable for farmers to "cash in" and sell land to developers then to continue farming it. We're losing the pastoral beauty of the area, a way of life, and the knowledge of producing our own food for future generations. There are virtually no working farms left in South Buncombe County.
Farmers are often counting on the growth in land value as their retirement nest egg. Legislation to limit or restrict the development of farm land is not fair to the farmer, who counted on the sale of the land to support him in his later years, and would meet with serious political opposition. Although his family members and children may want the farm to stay in the family, most children of farmers in this area have moved on to other careers. Farming is difficult and the financial rewards very limited. It’s very difficult to support a family on a small farm today given the cost of land and mortgage payments, equipment and labor costs. Just chopping up a farm into 5 or 10 acre parcels doesn't work either. That typically just becomes a big yard of mowed grass and does not continue or support farming. The goal is to keep the farm intact and working, as much as possible.
The Hopeful Solution:
Creekside Farm is creating a model that may help sustain farming in the region thru a new development concept called “the agri-hood”.
A new trend in “mindful development”, the “agri-hood” community, can help to reduce the impact of urban sprawl, save farms from development, and create lively communities closely tied into the farm and the farming way of life. With homes condensed into smaller areas adjacent to the working farm, the farmer can keep working the land but have something for retirement through the sale of a limited number of lots adjacent to the farm. The farm will continue to produce as a working farm, and the surrounding homes can enjoy a lifestyle closely connected to the land, the activities of the farm and the lifestyle of “agricultural urbanism”.
The Agri-hood community is a growing trend in the US, with over 200 such communities sprouting up across the country. As part of the whole Farm to Table movement that is changing restaurant menus everywhere, along with Farmers Markets now in most urban communities, people are wanting to connect to the land and to where their food comes from.
The goal is “mindful development” and an attempt to keep as much farming in the area as possible to limit the effects of urban sprawl and protect this valuable resource and way of life.
Here are just a few of the benefits of an Agri-hood community:
1. Allows farmers to aside land on which to farm and attract new, young farmers to learn and practice the trade, keeping the profession vital for future generations. The average age of farmers in Buncombe County is 58. We need younger farmers coming in and learning about the business if it is to survive for future generations.
2. Keeps the pastoral beauty and self sufficiency of the region.
3. Limits carbon emissions from transportation and helps the local economy with jobs on the farm and thru local distribution.
4. Fresh food tastes better and is healthier for you.
5. Keeping the pastoral beauty adds to everyone's property value and contributes to overall happiness. It's why we live here.
The end goal is to create the infrastructure of farmers, equipment, available land, people and distribution to continue farming in WNC.
The United States was built on farming. At the beginning of the 20th century, farms employed about half the population. By the late 1990s, however, that number fell to less than 2 percent. The dramatic change was part of a larger transformation in American agriculture during this time, when the number of farms decreased by 63 percent but the average size of those that remained grew by about two thirds. At the same time, industrialization and technology disconnected much of the population from farms completely. Today, the closest the average American gets to a farm is the produce section of a grocery store, and much of the fruits and vegetables there are far from the farm where they were grown. The average journey for a Caesar salad from farm to storefront is 1,500 miles—about the same distance from New York City to Dallas.
The new trend, according to Urban Land Institute researcher Ed McMahon who has been quoted on this subject on CBS Sunday Morning and in the New York Times, is to integrate the farm and agriculture back into the community as a “wellness feature”. Now called “Agrihoods”, over 200 of them have popped up around the country. People want to re-connect to the land again. They want to their neighbors and community at the farm and when they pick up their produce at the old barn. Mr. McMahon says for the last few decades we’ve “designed physical activities and green space out of our communities” and calls it “Nature Deficit”. Many urban designers now agree that the old model of development from the 80’s and 90’s isn’t working anymore. Developers used to think people would socialize and interact at the shopping mall. We’re moving away from that mass consumption model, since most people realize it’s not good for resources or the environment and is not sustainable (or that fulfilling). And we don’t really socialize with neighbors at the mall. We need a better way to connect with others, enjoy nature and the outdoors, and connect with our food as a way to enjoy nature. Enter the Agihood.
Food can bring people together. And whether you’re helping on the farm, taking a cooking class to learn how to prepare this week’s vegetables, learning about and collecting Heirloom seeds, or just sharing the bounty of the garden with your family in a true Farm to Table experience, it’s all about using food to connect. This is what the CSA program at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove is all about.
An old satellite image of The Cliffs at Walnut Cove before it was a golf course.
Farm land has been disappearing from WNC for decades. The same is true across the country. Sunrise Farm appears at the bottom of the image.