In and around Gibsonville, N.C., signs with the words “Voluntary Agricultural District” have been popping up all over. The signs tell all whom pass by that this is an area where production agriculture occurs. So if anyone is thinking about buying their dream property in the country to build a house they know that production agriculture is here to stay.

In addition to the signs, the Voluntary Agricultural District designation means that when anyone buys land in the district the purchase documents will disclose that the property is in an agricultural district and that farming will occur. The idea is to make all potential owners aware of land use in the area and hopefully prevent these new residents from winning nuisance lawsuits against producers for simply doing their jobs.

About five years ago, the Guilford County Farm Bureau, and the North Carolina extension service starting looking into the idea of establishing farming districts in order to help preserve farm land. Rules were finalized two years ago and the first producers have just recently started putting up signs.

To enter the Voluntary Agricultural District program, producers must pledge to work their farms for at least 10 years and the Natural Resources Conservation Service must certify that at least two-thirds of the land being purchased is suitable for production agriculture, horticulture or forestry. Once they have pledged to cultivate the land, they qualify for a program that helps them purchase land at a cheaper rate. The pledge however is not a binding contract. And the property can only be sold after submitting a written notice to the county.

In addition to Guilford County, the program is also being tried out in Browns Summit and Alamance Counties.

Greensboro News & Record, N.C.