The answer is yes, according to UNC Asheville’s Farmland Values Project. In fact, people are willing to pay between $185 to $195 to protect our dwindling farmlands, saying those lands add considerable value to quality of life as well as economic potential, the study found.
UNC Asheville Economics professor Leah Greden Mathews and 17 student researchers conducted the Farmland Values Project over the past four years, gathering data from surveys, focus groups and community mapping. The goal was to create information useful to public policy makers, land use planners, developers and other public officials about the values people hold for farmland.
“We wanted to study how people value farmland, because population growth has led to land-use change in North Carolina—600,000 acres of farmland have been lost between 2002 and 2007.” Mathews said.
The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, centered on the attitudes of people in Buncombe, Henderson, Haywood and Madison counties.
Mathews’ multidisciplinary approach involved work by a sociologist and a geographer from Appalachian State University, a multimedia artist, an N.C. Department of Agriculture agronomist, and the UNC Asheville student researchers from many disciplines.
Leah Greden Mathews
“I learned how an all-encompassing research project works,” said Economics and Spanish double major Shoshana Fried ’08 of Chapel Hill, who conducted Spanish-language focus groups among farm workers. “As we looked at farmland in the four counties, I became aware of people’s feelings about non-market values like scenic quality, cultural heritage and the environmental benefits of farmland.”
Mathematics major Christie Gonzales’ statistical analysis attempted to find out if open space near homes in Buncombe County affected real estate values. “I got great experience in statistical and economic research, and I have the added benefit of knowing this project can help preserve farmland, which I feel strongly about,” said Gonzales, of Hendersonville. “From lots of positive feedback I’ve gotten, I think this work can contribute to the well-being of the community. Any attempt at farmland preservation is important.”
In addition to measuring the many values of farmland, the study found that farmland affects resident’s quality of life, that most people believe more needs to be done to protect farmland, and are willing to pay to help protect farmland in the region.
The comprehensive research findings on how WNC residents value their farmland include photos, audiotapes from focus groups, survey data, maps and dates for upcoming public meetings for interested community members.
All material is available at