Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
On the last day of May, a group of about 15 paddled a section of the Tuckasegee
River for recreation but also to learn more about the farmland preservation efforts of Franklin-based Mainspring Conservation Trust. Many are familiar with the organization’s focus on protecting lands and waterways, but few realize that farms are an important component for Mainspring as well.
Jason Meador, aquatics program manager, spoke to the kayakers when the group stopped at Darnell Farms near Bryson City. Meador presented information about the importance of assisting heritage farmland owners with acquiring conservation easements, which not only protect historic farmlands but also serve to protect the surrounding waterways and the overall environment. Mainspring is working through plans and fundraising efforts to secure an easement for Darnell Farms. Audrey Lambert, who works in operations at the farm, pointed out that multi-generations of the Darnell family as well as long-time “farmily” employees rely on the “perpetuation of the farm.”
“Less farms, less food production,” she told the group, adding that locally grown foods lead to better health. An easement would protect the farmland for future generations, “and so it can continue to be part of agritourism, to educate children and adults where food comes from,” Lambert added. “The Darnells share this farm and like it when people come here and learn about the farm, the food grown here, enjoy music when we have it, and more.”
Meador shared that securing farmland preservation easements involves years of planning and working with myriad entities, “but it’s worth it to know the farmland is protected against development and that these family farms can continue to be sustainable.”
A list of other farms for which the organization has established preservation easements is available on its website: at www.mainspringconserves.org. Mainspring offers conservation and area-history-related events and activities to the public.