The farming, forestry, nursery and local food industries in Wake County are one step closer to being eligible to receive some additional support thanks to the Wake County Agriculture Economic Development Plan.
The proposal will now go to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for certification.
With a certified Plan, Wake County will qualify for additional funding and financial support from the Agricultural Development Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Wake County will be eligible for trust fund grants with a 15 percent match instead of the 30 percent match required for counties without a farmland protection plan in place.
Members of the agricultural community applying for grants could potentially save thousands of dollars in matching funds.
The plan aims to increase awareness of the agricultural and agribusiness community. It will help ensure that more people have access to local farm stands, community gardens, pick-your-own farms, and other agricultural businesses, which proponents say increases community revenue and supports a healthier community.
The additional funds and financial support will encourage economic development in agriculture and agri-businesses through partnerships, collaborations and existing entities.
In 2011, Wake County ranked 17th in the state for vegetable, fruit, nut, and berry production, producing $8.8 million. Wake County has more farmer's markets than any other county in North Carolina and a population that consistently demands more local fresh food.
Because of that, the support the certified agriculture plan provides to the agricultural community is necessary, according to Dale Threatt-Taylor, district director of the Department of Soil and Water Conservation.
“If we're all going to continue to grow smart, we must plan for economic viability in all of our profitable industries in Wake County, including agriculture,” he said.
Wake County is in the unique position of being the only county in North Carolina that has such a large agriculture and forestry industry coupled with a population of almost one million people.
Wake County adopted a Farmland Preservation Program in 1989. In the late 2000s, the state Agricultural Department informed the county that it needed to update this program.
The county received a $26,000 grant to work with the community to write a new plan. This new plan was completed in 2010 but never submitted.
After going through extensive rewrites and edits and receiving input from the public and agricultural community, Wake County now has a new plan.
The Wake County Agriculture Economic Development Plan has no cost to taxpayers or municipalities.