The market for fresh local food continues to grow in the Triangle region, but development pressures on existing farms and the lack of access to farmland for new farmers are major barriers to increasing local food production. There is a critical need to protect farmland to provide long-term food security for all Triangle residents.
The Conservation Trust and its partners have completed a regional farmland preservation and agricultural economic development strategy for the Triangle. With grant support from the Triangle Community Foundation and Sustainable Foods NC, CTNC has published, “Triangle Farms for Food: Strategy + Action Plan.”
In addition to the Triangle Community Foundation and Sustainable Foods NC, partners included Community Food Lab, Triangle Land Conservancy, Eno River Association, Center for Environmental Farming Systems and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. The overall goals of the partners are to protect existing farmland and keep it in production, support existing and beginning farmers, advance agricultural awareness and build a strong local food economy in the region.
The strategy covers Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake Counties. These five counties combined have lost more than 63,500 acres of farmland since 1997. The strategy uses Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis to prioritize farmland for protection in the five-county region. The criteria for prioritizing rural farmland included prime soils, agricultural land cover, farm size, proximity to protected farmland, development pressure and distance to markets. The strategy also prioritizes smaller farms in proximity to urban areas and food deserts that can serve as the focal point for farmland preservation and urban agricultural development.
The report identifies 788 parcels consisting of more than 50,000 acres of farmland in rural areas and 65 parcels consisting of more than 850 acres in urban areas as high priority farmland. Based on the GIS data and feedback from stakeholders throughout the region, the project partners developed six place-based strategies and six regional strategies to promote farmland preservation and agricultural economic development across the Triangle.
The Conservation Trust will continue working with partners in the region to implement the strategy and three-year action plan to achieve our collective vision: active, productive, and economically-viable farms are common sights throughout the Triangle’s rural and urban landscapes, contributing to sustainable communities and a resilient regional food system.
This post was co-authored by Edgar Miller, Government Relations Director and Caitlin Burke, Special Projects and Grants Coordinator. To learn more about Triangle Farms for Food click here.