Branan Lends Legal Training Support to VAD Workgroup Training

Andrew Branan, Extension Assistant Professor, has joined the workgroup supporting Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) programs across North Carolina.  The VAD workgroup is currently providing legal, technical and leadership training for county personnel who lead their local VAD program in various regional locations across North Carolina.  The workgroup is led by staff from NC Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services’ Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF) and comprised of staff from NC Farm Bureau, NCDOT and other agencies.

Voluntary Ag Districts are farmland preservation programs authorized by state statute, allowing counties to draft and adopt ordinances to identify farms to preservation districts as notice to neighbors and the public of the existence of farm activities in the neighborhood.  General benefits from the VAD program for farmers include road signage, abatement on sewer and water hookup (as residential development approaches), and record notice in the county Register of Deeds database to would-be purchasers of land nearby a working farm, all in return for a non-binding pledge by the landowner to refrain from residential development for ten years.  Currently, all but 12 North Carolina counties have VAD ordinances in some fashion, and are often led by Cooperative Extension or NC Soil and Water Conservation personnel.  One of the primary purposes of the VAD workgroup trainings is to assist in leadership development, legal and other technical matters associated with running the VAD program and implementing its landowner benefits (such as Register of Deeds notice).

“Voluntary Ag Districts are important North Carolina farmland protection tools, mostly in that their signage and GIS notice remind the non-farm public that the rural landscape is comprised of working farms, that the view is not just there for show,” says Branan.  “However, the programs do not run themselves, so it is important to sustain them with leadership training and providing a means to address the technical issues of running the VAD program,” adds Branan.

The Regional Voluntary Ag District trainings are scheduled and held at the Cooperative Extension offices for Alamance County (May 1), Nash County (May 8), Burke County (May 16), Johnston County (May 23), and Jackson County (May 31).  The workshops are a pre-curser to landowner-focused events to occur later in the year or early 2019.