By Mike Barnhardt
Henry Walker sees it everywhere he goes.
In fact, the farmer always sees it under where he looks.
It is agricultural land.
And it’s being swallowed in record numbers by businesses and home builders.
Speaking to county commissioners just before the council approved updates to the county’s voluntary agricultural districts, Walker came up with statistics, including one that hit home locally – power generation facilities solar.
“The acres lost to solar installations are more than the land that has been put into permanent easement (to prevent development) in North Carolina,” he said. “Once the solar goes down, it’s an industrial park, it’s not a farm anymore.”
That number is high, as last year more than 17,000 acres of land were put into permanent bondage in the state.
“We have things that take up farmland…and I’m not opposed to any of that.” He mentioned the Apple complex in Research Triangle Park, an Amazon warehouse in Smithfield, and a Toyota plant in Randolph County.
“All of this takes up agricultural land. You know, it’s not just the factories, it’s all the people who will come to live. We are all going to eat. We can’t pave everything and we all have to keep that in mind,” he said. “Agriculture is important.”
Eddie Leagans, chairman of the Davie Agricultural District Council, said the ordinance changes reflect changes to state regulations. He said there were 59 farms in Davie County under the program, protecting some 6,951 acres from development.
“The goal is to promote agricultural values and the general welfare of the county. Specifically, it creates identity pride in farming communities and their way of life, encourages the economic and financial health of agriculture, horticulture and forestry… and decreases the likelihood of disputes such as harmful actions between farm owners and their neighbors.
Board members unanimously approved the changes.
Mark Jones said that over his lifetime the number of dairy farms in Davie County went from around 200 to none.
“We want to grow, we want to progress. But we have to eat. Farms feed us, we can’t lose sight of that,” Jones said.