Evan Davis to lead Farmland Preservation division

by | Feb 7, 2022

For the first time in over a decade, there is a new face at the head of Farmland Preservation.

Evan Davis, Farmland Preservation division director, took over leadership of the division at the start of 2022 after previously serving as assistant director since 2018. Born in Davidson County, Davis grew up near High Point, taking part in FFA and vocational Ag programs in high school. After graduating from Elon University with a degree in political science, he joined the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer services in 2012 as an Information Processing Technician.

“I’ve always been interested in government and public policy, and I’ve been with the Farmland Preservation division since I started in state government,” Davis said. “I was able to get that entry-level position with the division and just worked my way up.”

While Davis is on the younger side as far as division directors go, his nearly 10 years with Farmland Preservation have more than prepared him for his new role. As assistant director, he focused mainly on the conservation easement grant program, a major cornerstone of the division in which landowners are compensated for the purchase of the development rights to ensure the land remains in agricultural, horticultural or forestry production. He has also completed two master’s degrees during his time with NCDA&CS, and that wealth of accumulated knowledge figures to be valuable as his responsibilities expand.

“As director my attention will have to move from that one cylinder to now looking at all areas and taking a bigger-picture approach. Over time the division has expanded both in personnel and in responsibility, and it was helpful to be part of those growing pains because I got to learn about areas that I might not have necessarily been directly responsible for,” Davis said. “Especially on the budget and HR side, that knowledge and those experiences are now very valuable as a supervisor.”

Davis takes the helm at a time of rapid growth for Farmland Preservation. Large-scale military easements – including a historic three-party common template easement with USDA and the U.S. Air Force – resulted in over 6,700 acres being preserved in 2021, more than twice what came under easement in 2020. With more large projects on the way, Farmland Preservation stands to stay busy for the foreseeable future.

For Davis, that in part means taking on an ambassadorial role.

“We work with a lot of non-profits and county governments, and there are many people all over the state who are doing great work, but we need to branch out more,” Davis said. “There are areas of need for farmland preservation, but we need to have local partners to do that. It’s important for us to have that outreach so that we can put some of these initiatives on the ground.”

These efforts have rarely been more important. A 2020 report from the American Farmland Trust put North Carolina at number two for farmland loss in the country, as people continue to flock to the state and developments continues to ramp up. For Davis, that means looking at other states for inspiration, as Farmland Preservation works to lead the way in keeping North Carolina’s open land intact.

Looking to the future, Davis commended his coworkers for their hard work.

“I am very fortunate to have a good team. They are passionate about farmland preservation, and we’re working to constantly improve how we deliver these programs,” he said. “I’m optimistic with just some of the developments we’ve had recently that we can hopefully start getting out a little more. Since we’re dealing with the land, it’s important for our team to be out there with folks.”