Monday, January 7, 2013

This is what planning to protect agriculture looks like

For those interested in land use issues, I thought this picture along the Potomac River just north of Washington, D.C., was very telling.

 Photo compliments of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance

On the LEFT, Loudon County, Virginia, which has a very typical approach to growth and land-use in a formerly very agricultural area.

On the RIGHT, Montgomery County, Maryland, which created an agricultural preservation area encompassing a large swathe of the north half of the county.

This is what real agricultural land protection looks like and I applaud Montgomery County for their accomplishments.


  1. Kent, could you elaborate on your comment regarding ag preservation in MoCo? If a farmer wanted to sell his land or retire was his land worth more in MoCo or across the river in VA?

  2. While there are several types of ag preservation programs out there, and some of them are not permanent but definitely long-term, most are and place a permanent easement on the property that does NOT allow for subdivision.

    There are typically no restrictions on farm buildings and the easement can be written as to allow additional tenant buildings, as ours does.

    In exchange, the landowner gains a pretty substantial tax deduction.

    Depending on your circumstances, there can often actually be more value in the easement than in selling for development.

    As one farmer put it, real farmers don't grow houses, they grow food.

  3. As an addendum - from a philosophical perspective, we as a society, need to decide whether having high-quality, locally-produced food is truly important to us or not.

    Once farmland is lost to sprawl, it doesn't go back.

    When a farmer buys FARM-land, zoned for agriculture, there is no reason why that person should expect to be able to sell that land for development

    ...just as someone who buys a lot in a suburban development would not expect to build a gas station on it.