Coming Together To Celebrate North Carolina Forever Farms

by | Jun 7, 2023

Just before last month’s Got to Be NC Festival kicked off at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, a special event was held to honor those who have taken the ultimate step in preserving state’s agricultural heritage.

Through the work of the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services’ Farmland Preservation Division, more than 32,000 acres of farmland across the state have had permanent conservation easements, protecting them from being developed in perpetuity.

At a standing room only reception inside the Bob Stanfield Center on May 19, those farms were given a new moniker: NC Forever Farms.

“We unveiled a new marketing and branding campaign from the Farmland Preservation Division called NC Forever Farms,” said Evan Davis, Division director. “We’re celebrating the farmers, landowners and foresters that have made the commitment to preserve their farms forever.”

In attendance along with farmers who have joined the NC Forever Farms program were representatives of various land trusts and interest groups, plus Dewitt Hardee, the first director of the division.

“It’s good to see a celebration like this because we’re been trying to get a program like this in North Carolina for 20 years,” Hardee said. “This NC Forever Farms brand will bring those efforts to another level of production for the conservation of farms in the state.”

Farmland Preservation is an important priority for the Department under the leadership of Commissioner Steve Troxler. In 2022, the American Farmland Trust released a report that projected North Carolina would lose more acres of farmland than all but one state by the year 2040.

The report predicted that 1.1 million acres of farmland would be lost in North Carolina alone. With agriculture ranked as the top industry in the state with an economic impact of $103.2 billion, preservation of farmland for generations to come is a vital mission.

One of the farm owners present at the ceremony was Kim Starnes of Four S Farms in Salisbury, who put a conservation easement on his farm more than a decade ago.

“We wanted to protect it for future generations,” Starnes said. “We do have a son that’s with us on the farm. We wanted to protect it because there’s a lot of development around us and we felt it was the right thing to do to preserve our farm.”

Hardee was also surprised as the recipient of the first-ever North Carolina Friends of Farmland Award, a new recognition that 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.”

To learn more about the NC Forever Farms program, visit