Why We Care Series: Rural Preservation

Learn more about the importance of rural preservation from real farmers, in their own words.

Straight talk, from real farmers, in their own words.

Today, consumers have many questions about agriculture and there seems to be no shortage of so-called experts willing to talk to them about the subject. Often, in our crowded world of traditional and social media, it is only the most outrageous headlines that are noticed, but not necessarily the most accurate. So, we asked a group of farmers if they would be willing to speak to you about agriculture. Several producers took us up on our offer. Each month we will feature one of their stories in an on-going series called?“Why We Care”. They will talk about everything from food safety to renewable energy. It’s straight talk, from real farmers and ranchers, in their own words. We encourage you to read and comment on these stories and to share them with others.


As told by Bill Holbrook

Bill Holbrook sees his role as guardian of the environment and of the rural way of life.

To save the lifestyle we love, we need to do the work now, not later.

Drive through my part of the country, Haywood County, N.C., and you’ll know why I say I’m blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places in America.

Interstate 40 cuts through the heart of this area, up, down, and through the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the many travelers driving on it know what I’m talking about. And when they get off the highway, they discover the quiet, remote communities – like my own, Bethel – and find the people warm and welcoming.

No other way to say it:?We’re just rural. You know what I’m talking about because you feel the same about your part of America, whether you’re in the Deep South, the Great Plains, or near one of the coasts.

Being rural is something that connects us all. Let me suggest you appreciate that fact and not take it for granted. Most importantly, do whatever?you can to never lose it.?Much of rural America is worried about young people moving away, as are we.

Yes, we need growth to create the jobs and economy to make this a good way to live. But we are also aware that more needs to be done to preserve our rural qualities.

Cold Mountain Farms, in its sixth generation, sits on the Pigeon River and is recognized for its water protection.

Cold Mountain

The Pigeon Riv-er runs fast and clear through this county, passing through many mountain peaks, one of which is the famous Cold Mountain, home of W.P. Inman, a soldier who deserted the Civil War to return to his true love, Ada. Charles Frazier wrote a best seller on the story, later made into a movie. This area has many intriguing stories, like the WW II bomber, rumored to be carrying military payroll that crashed on Cold?Mountain in 1946. The money-the government paid soldiers in cash back then-was never recovered, and the mystery remains unsolved to this day.

No matter where you are, you, too, have such stories. If you don’t know the stories, dig, and you’ll find them. Then preserve those stories and let them be part of your rural character.?All rural areas want growth, but I?believe it needs to be of the right type: Natural growth. Beware of developers – and even local government officials – who want to make growth happen too quickly. That happened to us 15 years ago. County commissioners wanted to install water and sewer systems throughout the entire county.

That might sound good at first,?but many of us knew the move?would have caused explosive growth – just like it did in Buncombe County – one county to our east.

I grew up there, but it is not where I’d want to live today. The county?– and its county seat, Asheville – is far removed?from what I remember. It has too many people, too much traffic,?and it’s way too commercialized.

Our community voted down the?proposal to add water and sewer. The county commissioners had the good sense to listen to their populace – and?I give them credit for that – and dropped the idea. But at some point, inevitably, the push will come again.

The problem with water and sewer?is that high density housing will always?come with it. If you want to preserve farms, you’d better stay rural from the beginning. When urbanization comes, farms can’t withstand the pressure of increased land values, and farmers will eventually sell out. We’ve seen it across the country.

Bill Holbrook always welcomes neighbors to come onto his river "bottomland" to picnic and swim in the clean, cold Pigeon River.

Saving farmland?

The people in our little area are quite active in farm preservation, with many landowners working with the North Carolina Farmland Preservation Trust Fund and the Bethel Rural Community Organization to enroll their farm into conservation easements. Landowners agree to limit development of their farm, thus leaving the farmland in agricultural use for future generations. In return, they receive payment.

I think that’s fair. If we want to preserve?the rural way of life, it needs to be something everyone works for and supports. Preserving rural America is a worthy goal, something for all the people – not just those who own the land – to work towards. Growth in rural communities will happen. Just let it come naturally.



Why We Care Series: Rural Preservation


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