Voices of North Carolina Agriculture: Current Issues and Innovations in Farmland Preservation
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Agriculture is North Carolina’s number one industry, contributing $72 billion annually to the state’s economy and accounting for 17% of jobs. In addition to growing nourishing food, farms provide many other benefits to communities. These include food-related businesses and jobs, tourism opportunities, improved water quality, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, and the beauty of open spaces. Despite the importance of the agricultural sector, North Carolina is also a leading state in farmland loss. Between 2002 and 2007, total land in farms in the state decreased 7%, or about 600,000 acres. This study seeks to understand the reasons for the high rate of farmland loss in North Carolina and how this trend might be stopped. To that end, a diverse array of stakeholders were asked to share their perspectives on the issue. Interviews were conducted with 16 farmers, state and county officials, and other professionals in the field. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and manually coded to find common themes. The results of this study consist of a number of key issues and trends that were organized into three main themes: (1) threats to farmland preservation, (2) the organizations, policies, and tools involved in current preservation efforts, and (3) innovative strategies to save more farmland. Discussion of these issues is followed by a set of recommendations derived from the research findings. Overall, this masters project is intended to bring disparate voices into a common conversation, in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of current issues and innovations in farmland preservation in North Carolina, and to use this collected wisdom to help guide the way forward.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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