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February 12, 2008

Keeping the family farm in the family

Steve Smutko, left, polls the audience, while Grace Lawrence tallies their concerns at the "Keeping the Farm" workshop in Wake County. (Art Latham photo)

Landowners seeking financial and technical help to diversify and manage their farms and forests so they can maintain, sustain or keep the farm in the family flocked to North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Wake County center recently.

More than 170 attendees at the third annual "Keeping the Farm" workshop on Jan. 30 learned about the state of working lands and development in Wake County, forestry, taxes, tax credits and estate planning.

Perhaps not surprisingly, three of the top five concerns attendees expressed related to taxation issues, while the other two regarded rules for qualifying for a small farm and how to find a successor to work the land.

“With the rapid growth Wake County is experiencing,,” said Grace Lawrence, Wake County Cooperative Extension agent for the environment, “there are many changes that can be exciting and, sometimes, overwhelming for landowners.

“Many people don’t realize there are 800 farmers in Wake County alone,” she said. “Working lands don’t just produce crops, they benefit everyone by preserving wildlife habitat, enhancing air and water quality and providing open space.”

Harold H. Webb, Wake County commissioner, introduced the session and Emmett Curl, Wake County revenue director and tax assessor, provided details on county taxation efforts and procedures.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension specialists and others, listed below, led breakout sessions that provided more details and addressed concerns voiced by attendees.

The sessions, listed with their coordinators’ specialties and affiliations:

Tax and regulatory issues for land: Dr. Steve Smutko, Natural Resources Leadership Institute director and Guido van der Hoeven, farm management and taxation specialist, both of the Agricultural and Resources Economics Department, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), North Carolina State University; and Mark Megalos, N.C. State Forestry Extension.

Frameworks for property decision-making and goal-setting: Carolyn Bird, CALS 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences Department; and Robin Landsman, Wake County assistant Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.

Working with resource professionals: Morris Dunn, Cooperative Extension horticulture agent, Wake County; Matthew Kinane, Natural Resource Conservation Service; Keith Miller, Wake County Farm Service Agency; Alton Perry, N.C. Forestry Service; and Mark Edmonson, Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space.

Updating estate plans: Dr. Ted Feitshans, CALS Agricultural and Resources Economics Department environmental and agricultural law specialist; and Andrew Branan, executive director, N.C. Farm Transition Network.

-A. Latham

Posted by Art at February 12, 2008 01:26 PM