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VOLUNTARY AGRICULTURAL DISTRICTS (VAD)

WHAT IS A VOLUNTARY AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT?
A Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) helps to promote agricultural values and general welfare of the county by increasing identity and pride in the agricultural community and its way of life; encourage the economic and financial health of agriculture; and decrease the likelihood of legal disputes, such as nuisance actions between farm owners and their neighbors and other negative impacts on properly managed farms.

WHY HAVE AGRICULTURAL DISTRICTS?
The State of North Carolina passed the Farmland Preservation Enabling Act in 1985, authorizing counties to establish farmland preservation programs, including agricultural districts. In 2003, Stokes County adopted a Voluntary Farmland Preservation Program Ordinance, creating the Agricultural Districts Advisory Board (ADAB) and procedures for establishing Voluntary Agricultural Districts. This ordinance was revised in 2021 due to revisions of NC Senate Bill 605. The purpose of the ordinance is to promote the preservation of farmland in Stokes County so that development and growth will be accompanied by protection of farms from non-farm development and other negative impacts on properly managed farms, recognizing the importance of agriculture to the economic and cultural life in the County.

WHAT IS THE AGRICULTURAL DISTRICTS ADVISORY BOARD?
The Agricultural Districts Advisory Board (ADAB) is composed of a number of County residents, which includes farmers representing newly-formed Agricultural Districts. The Stokes County Board of County Commissioners appoints ADAB members. The ADAB reviews and approves applications to the Agricultural Districts program. They also advise the board of County Commissioners on projects, programs, or issues affecting the agricultural economy or way of life within the County.

ABOUT THE AGRICULTURAL DISTRICTS ADVISORY BOARD
The Agricultural Districts Advisory Board supports voluntary measures and incentives that will lead to the continued and future viability of farming, as well as farmland preservation in Stokes County. The goals of rural preservation, which encompass the conservation of prime farmland, the scenic vistas of the agricultural landscape, the family farm tradition, and the economic viability of agriculture in Stokes County, would be served by keeping farming a viable enterprise.

YOUR AGRICULTURAL LAND IS A VALUABLE ASSET TO THE CITIZENS OF STOKES COUNTY
Citizens of Stokes County derive many benefits from your farmland: clean water, clean air, plant and animal habitat, fresh fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, horticultural products, and scenic rural vistas. Now you can enroll in a program that demonstrates your pride and commitment to agriculture, and celebrates your contribution to the exceptional quality of life in Stokes County.

VOLUNTARY AGRICULTURAL DISTRICTS PROMOTE THE PRIDE AND TRADITION OF STOKES COUNTY AGRICULTURE
Stokes County’s Voluntary Agricultural District Program enhances the identity of the agricultural community by encouraging the voluntary preservation and protection of farmland from non-farm development.

HOW YOUR FARM CAN BENEFIT FROM BECOMING A VOLUNTARY AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT?
Recognition – A sign to identify your farm as a Stokes County Voluntary Agricultural District will be available. These signs will tell passersby that you, the farm owner, are committed to the preservation of the agricultural way of life in Stokes County.

Decrease the likelihood of legal disputes, such as nuisance actions between farm owners and their neighbors – Persons buying land in rural areas will do so with the knowledge that a bona fide agricultural operation exists within one-half aerial mile. Agricultural Districts will be identified on County maps, which shall be displayed for public view in County offices including offices of the Planning Department and Economic Development.

Waiver of water and sewer assessments – Water and sewer assessments will be held in abeyance, without interest for farms whether inside or outside of a District until improvements on such property are connected to the water or sewer system for which the assessment was made.

Eligibility for preservation funds– Agricultural Districts may be eligible for farmland preservation grants, should funding become available from local, state, or federal sources.

HOW YOUR FARM CAN BECOME A VOLUNTARY AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT
To become an Agricultural District, a farm must first be certified as Qualifying Farmland. To secure certification, a farm must:

  • Be participating in the farm Present Use Value Taxation program or is otherwise determined by the Stokes County Tax Department to meet all the qualifications of this program set forth in G.S. 105-277.3.
  • Be certified by the Stokes Soil & Water Conservation District to meet Natural Resources Conservation Service specifications as being a farm on which 1) at least two-thirds of the land is composed of soils that are best suited for agricultural purposes; or 2) at least two-thirds of the land has been actively used in agricultural, horticultural, or forestry operations during each of the last five years.
  • Be managed, if highly erodible land exists on the farm, in accordance with the Natural Resources Conservation Service defined erosion control practices that are addressed to highly erodible land.
  • Be the subject of an agreement between the County and the owner of the land.

An Agricultural District must consist of a minimum of:

– 5 acres for horticulture or

– 10 acres for agricultural use or

– 20 acres for forestry.

Leased and/or rented land for the purpose of agriculture will be taken into account.

Contact one of the agencies listed in this brochure for more information on qualifying as a Voluntary Agricultural District.

AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT MEMBERSHIP REQUIRES A VOLUNTARY, NON-BINDING AGREEMENT
A Voluntary Agricultural District member will be subject to a non-binding agreement between the County and the landowner that prohibits non-farm use or development of such land for a period of at least 10 years, except for the creation of not more than three lots that meet applicable county zoning and subdivision regulations.

MEMBERSHIP MAY BE REVOKED AT ANY TIME BY THE MEMBER
Should you decide to sell your land you may revoke the agreement at any time through a written notice to the County.

THE CURRENT MEMBERS OF THE AGRICULTURE ADVISORY BOARD ARE AS FOLLOWS:

Robert P. Lindsay, Chair

Carlton Jones, Vice Chair

Nancy Ridge, Member

David McKinney, Member

Wesley Bowen, Member

George Cutchins, Member

Sharon Hartman, Member

For more information on this program please contact the Stokes Soil & Water Conservation District at 336-593-2490.

View the Voluntary Agricultural Districts map for Stokes County (4mb)  

Link to Application for Voluntary Agricultural District Program 

Link to newly revised Stokes County Voluntary Farmland Preservation Ordinance 

Link to Piedmont Land Conservancy www.piedmontland.org

Link to Conservation Trust for NC www.ctnc.org

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