Buncombe County Sees Increase in Farmland

A wide view of a farm at dusk.
U.S. Congress

As development in Buncombe County continues to surge, there has also been an increase in farmland during a five-year stretch. From 2012-2017, Buncombe County experienced a one-percent increase in farmland and now has more than 1,000 farms using more than 70,000 acres of land.

The yield from all of those operations generates more than $48 million of market value. While that one-percent increase might not seem significant, it comes on the heels of years of losing farmland.

“The demise of the tobacco program in 2004, along with the real estate boom, contributed to an increased rate of farmland loss until the recession slowed everything down,” notes County Cooperative Extension Director Steve Duckett. “New, small acreage producers and agrotourism operations are responsible for most of our growth in the last five years.”

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Buncombe County has a rich history of supporting such ventures and continues to be a viable location for farming. “Access to a large population center that values local food is a big plus. We also have very fertile soil in the creek and river bottoms,” explains Duckett. “Our abundant rainfall and generally mild climate is another plus. On the negative side, our steep slopes and small field sizes make growing high value crops and livestock the most viable enterprises. Livestock can use land that is only suitable for growing grass effectively, which makes them an important component of our farm systems.”

But beyond Buncombe County being a desirable location for farming, it’s an industry the county also benefits from. “One big advantage of farmland is preservation of the scenery that drives our tourism industry. Protecting our forests and water systems is another big factor,” notes Duckett. “Also, farmland uses much less public resources than developed land, so this is healthy for the public bottom line. And, of course, farmland gives us access to local, healthy food.”