Author: Erin Hostetler
Erin Hostetler is the Program Coordinator the Energy & Environment Innovation Foundation and Rivendell Farms of the Carolinas where she is actively involved with food systems and environmental work. Erin holds a Master of Arts in Global Ethics & Human Values from Kings College London with a focus on food ethics and has spent the last four years working as a farmer to gain the food systems experience needed to make true change in her community. As a Charlotte native, she is committed to furthering awareness of the food community in her hometown and promoting active involvement within it. Erin also owns, The Patio Farmer, a consultation business where she teaches people how to grow food in small spaces. In her free time, you’ll likely find Erin with her sleeves rolled up, sweat on her brow and hands in the dirt.
A Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) is an answer. A VAD is a county ordinance that works to protect farm land and farmer interest within a county. It is a program run by the county’s Soil & Water Conservation District and is composed of a volunteer board of landowners and farmers who participate in development decisions to express agricultural interests.
On January 24, 2018 a group of farmers, stakeholders and leaders in our local food community came together to discuss the opportunity for Mecklenburg County to pursue a VAD. Led by the Mecklenburg Soil & Water Conservation District with the collaboration of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Food Policy Council and the Community Food Strategies team from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the purpose of the event was to gauge interest, primarily, from interested farmers in pursuing the farmland protection ordinance.
Out of North Carolina’s 100 counties, Mecklenburg is 1 of 12 that do not have a VAD ordinance in place. With over 200 farms operating in Mecklenburg County, the participants at the farmer forum in January felt strongly that Mecklenburg County needs an in-place VAD to protect its remaining farmland.
In response to this forum, a VAD Action Team has forged between the Charlotte Mecklenburg Food Policy Council, the Mecklenburg Soil & Water Conservation District and Rivendell Farms of the Carolinas, a local farmer-interest group focused on managing land and water resources. The group will be conducting county-wide research and data collection on the 200+ farms in order to draft a VAD ordinance that will be presented to the Mecklenburg County Commissioners for approval this fall.
For all Mecklenburg County farmers interested in being part of the development of the VAD, please contact Nicole Peterson or Erin Hostetler of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Food Policy Council.
Free-lance journalist, Michael Solender, attended the January farmer forum and wrote a detailed explanation of the information presented. A link to Mr. Solender’s article is provided, http://plancharlotte.org/story/voluntary-farmland-preservation-mecklenburg.
For more information on the Mecklenburg Soil & Water Conservation District, click here, https://www.mecknc.gov/LUESA/WaterandLandResources/Conservation/Pages/default.aspx
For examples of VAD ordinances in other urban, NC counties, click the following links,
Wake County: http://www.wakegov.com/swcd/agriculture/Pages/voluntary.aspx
Guilford County: https://guilford.ces.ncsu.edu/guilford-county-voluntary-agricultural-district/