On Friday, September 2nd, TLC recorded a conservation easement on Manco Dairy Farm. This 257-acre easement is on a Century Farm in Chatham County, owned and managed by the Mann family since 1840. The farm is Northwest of the town of Pittsboro, a rapidly expanding area in the County, with lots of new developments underway on its outskirts. With the Manco Dairy easement and the Harland’s Creek Farm easement TLC recorded last year, we have nearly 450 acres of conservation land buffering Pittsboro to the Northwest.
According to Farms Under Threat, U.S. farmland acreage has decreased by more than 13.62 million acres since 2014. An average loss of over 1.9 million acres per year. Easements are some of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive land projects to put together. But they are a win-win for the farmer and the public, guaranteeing permanent protection of vital wildlife habitat, scenic views, and local agriculture while providing peace of mind and sometimes financial incentives for landowners. Easements like this allow farmers to keep the land as a working farm in perpetuity and profit from its increased market value without having to sell it for development.
This working land easement was bought with partial funding from the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust, part of it from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Agricultural Lands Easement program, and the rest was a donation from the Mann family.
Triangle Land Conservancy staff first visited this farm in 2019 to discuss conservation options with the Manns. Seeking funding from two grant sources meant applying and working through two application processes and then fulfilling the requirements from those funders for closing. More partners always mean more time, but it also means a more considerable investment in this family when small farms struggle to stay ahead of rising fuel, fertilizer, and other commodity prices.
Manco Dairy Farm grows most of the feed on 140 acres of cropland for its herd of Red Holstein milking cows. There are also 70 acres of forest on the property and a stream that runs from the Manco Dairy Farm to the recently conserved Harland’s Creek Farm. In a county with an average farm size of 95 acres, this 257-acre easement significantly contributes to retaining the rural character prioritized by Chatham County residents in the Chatham County Comprehensive Plan. Triangle Land Conservancy is preparing for the next cycle of Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund applications (due in early December) and hopes to continue using conservation easements to support local farms and food.