Agriculture & Forest Lands Are Disappearing

According to the 2002 U.S. Agricultural Census:

  • Farm land in Hanover County has declined 46.2% since 1950.
  • Over fifty years ago, 186,745 acres were farmed; by 2002, this figure dropped to 100,537 acres.
  • In 1950, there were 1,859 farms compared to 682 in 2002 – a 63% decline!
  • Since 1950, Hanover County has lost 72% of its woodlands – about 70,616 acres.

When farms and forests are lost, their unique economic and environmental contribution is also lost, permanently changing the character of Hanover County’s rural character. Sprawl threatens rural areas like Hanover County by imposing fiscal, social, and environmental burdens upon all residents.

Despite the loss of rural land, the 2002 Agricultural Census notes that a robust equine population thrives in Hanover County. Indeed, Hanover County’s equine population ranks 9th (out of 97) counties statewide and 464th of 3,065 counties nationwide. The positive economic impact from horse farms includes jobs and the sale of horses bred for a market outside of Virginia.

Other statistics from the 2002 Agricultural Census:

  • Hanover ranks 3rd in nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod production.
  • Hanover ranks 4th in barley and vegetable production, and 6th in wheat and soybean production.

According to the Hanover County Citizen’s Survey, a majority of Hanover citizens favor retaining a rural environment. The Citizen Survey conducted during the Spring of ’05 also shows 61% of the respondents favoring land use development that strives to keep the county mostly rural. Even if tax increases resulted to fund conservation easements, the majority of citizens endorse this position.

Because interest and vigor for agricultural pursuits exist and because these lands are under increasing development pressure – citizens, the Planning Commission, and Board of Supervisors need to devise strategies to protect and enhance Hanover County’s agricultural and forest lands. The CHF proposes the following for inclusion within the Comp Plan update:

  • Limit the expansion of the Suburban Service Area (SSA). SSA designation is given to areas in the county where future residential, commercial, and industrial development will be permitted to occur. If the SSA expanded, it will mean the future loss of rural lands.
  • Implement a Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) program that permanently protects farm and forest lands.
  • Pursue economic development ideas that support agricultural businesses and tourism.
  • Pursue all avenues of local, state, federal funding to purchase conservation easements or design incentives to preserve the agricultural potential on farms.
  • Seek enabling legislation to implement a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program.
  • Establish a conservation foundation to educate landowners, accept donations to support a PDR program (based upon Loudon County’s 2003 Comprehensive Plan Rural Policy Initiative).

Revisions of Hanover’s Comp Plan will reflect whether or not Hanover is a proactive protector of farms and the county’s rural character. Will our future include more tracts amd less tractors? Subdivisions and cars multiplying like rabbits? Less cornfields and more condos? Higher taxes, crowded schools, air and water pollution, and a gradual decline of the quality of life?


One Response

  1. I live on a farm in hanover and I am very concerned about the lack of any farm preservation programs in this county. Haven’t the ever heard of Purchase of Development Rights?

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