RALEIGH — The Farmland Preservation Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced new initiatives to celebrate farmland preservation efforts across the state.
N.C. Forever Farms is a program that recognizes family farms that have taken the ultimate step in protecting precious working lands that are vital to the future of agriculture in North Carolina. Through permanent agricultural conservation easements, these N.C. Forever Farms will always be protected from development and the threat of conversion.
Additionally, a new award has been established to recognize the exemplary efforts of individuals and groups that advance farmland preservation efforts in North Carolina. The N.C. Friends of Farmland Award will be given annually to “an individual or group that delivers exemplary service in the preservation of working lands in North Carolina and provides extraordinary efforts to foster the growth, development, and sustainability of North Carolina family farms.”
The inaugural N.C. Friends of Farmland Award was presented to Dewitt Hardee on May 19. Hardee, a Johnston County native, served as the first farmland preservation director for NCDA&CS from 2006 until his retirement in 2021. Over the course of his tenure as farmland preservation director, Hardee coordinated the preservation of nearly 30,000 acres of farmland.
Hardee’s farmland preservation work continues as he is now a Johnston County Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor. He also works with the N.C. State Grange on farmland preservation and agricultural programs, and seeks for his farm to become an NC Forever Farm.
“A special thank you goes to the farmers, foresters, and landowners that have committed to keeping their land as a natural resource that will benefit future North Carolinians,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
“Please join me in congratulating Dewitt Hardee as the inaugural recipient of the North Carolina Friends of Farmland Award. Farmland Preservation in North Carolina requires the partnership and cooperation of many farmers, landowners, government entities, and nonprofit organizations, and there is still much work to be done.”
Landowners interested in preserving their working farm or forest can visit https://www.ncadfp.org or call 919-707-3071 for more information.