Nearly 1,000 acres in Union Co. to be protected from development
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UNION COUNTY, N.C. -- Nearly 1,000 acres of farmland in Union County will be protected from development forever.
"Farming runs deep in our blood," said Frank Howey Jr., an eighth generation farmer. He's the first in Union County to participate in a Land Conservation Easement.
"We have thousands of acres of land here in Union Co," said Howey.
The Catawba Lands Conservancy, with grants from the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, will ensure Howey's property stays farmland.
"The N.C. legislature became really familiar with how much farmland we were losing and what the pace of that meant to the state of N.C.," said Associate Director of the Catawba Lands Conservancy Roxanne Smith.
Union County is the fastest growing county in North Carolina. It lost 10 percent of its farmland to development in five years. As a child, Howey remembers Charlotte's city limit being 25 miles away.
"Now it's 12 miles, so ya know, Charlotte has grown towards the farm," said Howey.
The agreement will protect 900 acres of Howey's farm from development within a decade, securing food production closer to the population and keeping costs low.
"Then you have less transportation costs which makes for fresher food and also you have less use of energy,"said Howey.
As long as thousands of acres of corn stalks can flourish in Union County, other North Carolina farms will be sustainable as well.
"Most of all the corn we grow goes to feed the poultry, turkeys, chickens and hogs," said Howey.
Howey not only hopes to preserve his land for farming, but as a legacy for his family.
"My son is 9 years old and he loves farming and helps me on the farm now, so someday I hope he'll have sons and daughters that want to continue the farming tradition here," he said.
The Catawba Land Conservancy protects more than 10,000 acres of land within the six county local area. Its goal is to protect 50,000 acres by 2030.