Preserve this way of life

Published 4:22 am Tuesday, October 14, 2008

By Staff
A program to help preserve farmland in North Carolina began a new cycle Monday.
Hopefully, it will take root and produce a bumper crop of farmland preservation projects across the Old North State, a state rich with agricultural history. Grants for the approved projects will come from the state’s Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund.
The money for the program comes from a $4 million pool the North Carolina General Assembly approved for fiscal year 2008-2009 to help counties and qualifying nonprofit organizations preserve open farmland. Dec. 5 is the deadline for counties and nonprofit groups to submit applications for grants. The grants can be used for programs that promote sustainable growing and used for agricultural conservation easements. The program also applies to the forestry and horticulture industries in North Carolina.
With agriculture long an important part of North Carolina’s history, it makes sense to preserve that part of the state’s past. Take eastern North Carolina for instance. The once-mighty tobacco industry in eastern North Carolina is but a shadow of its former prominence in the state’s economy. This program could help preserve what once was a way of life for many people, and not so long ago, either.
Just how important is the state’s agricultural history? Just think of the many times that a politician, when campaigning in a rural area, will tell those assembled: “I grew up on a farm.” Just think about how many politicians have uttered those words or similar words as they work the crowds in areas where farming has been, is and will continue to be important to the local economy.
The message from a politician who utters those words is clear: Farmers are honest, hard workers. Farmers have good years and bad years, meaning they sometimes struggle to feed their families as they help feed others.
The trust fund’s staff has organized several free informational meetings about the program, including one scheduled for 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 20 at the Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center in Williamston. Officials from area counties and nonprofit organizations interested in preserving farmland to attend that meeting.
Why is there a need for such a program?
Since 2002, North Carolina has lost at least 6,000 farms and 300,000 acres of farmland, putting North Carolina in the unenviable position of leading the nation in farm loss, according to the program’s Web site.
Agriculture and agribusiness comprises 20.3 percent of the state’s income and is the No. 1 industry in the state at $68 billion, according to the Web site. The state’s forest-products industry is the largest manufacturing industry in North Carolina.
If for no other reasons, that is why this program is important to North Carolina and deserving of support.
With the state’s population expected to grow by four million people by 2030, efforts to preserve farmland and forests from growth must begin now. This program will not only preserve farmland and forests, it will help preserve and protect a way of life long associated with North Carolina.
It’s a way of life that must be preserved and protected.