Charlie Farmer, District Conservationist
A Passion for Protecting Farmland
Note: This story ran in the my.NRCS Employee Highlights in February of 2013
Charles Farmer, District Conservationist (DC) with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for Fayette County, grew up working on the farms in Central Kentucky and is now providing help to protect farmland from development. The NRCS Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) established in 1996 is a voluntary program that helps farmers keep their land in agriculture. The FRPP provides matching funds to State, Tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations with existing farm land protection programs to purchase conservation easements.
Protecting the world famous landscape of the Bluegrass from urban sprawl has been a community goal of Fayette County for decades. In 1999, when Charles was asked serve on a committee to develop a Purchase of Development Rights Program (PDR) for Fayette County he was anxious to be part of an effort to protect farmland. The group met several times over the first year and Charles added, “Meetings were long and sometimes very tense as land use issues were discussed. The community came together and in 2000 passed an ordinance that created the first Agricultural Conservation Easement program by a local government in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
The creation of the Agricultural Conservation Easement program for Fayette County was a huge victory. The Fayette County Rural Land Management Board (FCRLMB) was created to administer the PDR Program and in 2001, the group became a partner with NRCS in the FRPP Program. Charles serves as an advisor to the FCRLMB and through his work with NRCS he works with the landowners to develop the prime farmland maps that must be submitted with their applications. In addition to this, Charles uses a program developed by NRCS GIS Specialist Steve Crabtree to determine the prime and statewide important soils on each farm. The quality of the soils is an important factor considered in the ranking of applications. A conservation plan is also developed with the landowners on these farms, to ensure the wise use of our natural resources.
The Fayette County PDR Program has become one of the most well-known farmland protection programs in the nation. To date 232 farms totaling more than 26,235 acres are now permanently protected by a conservation easement. The goal of the program is to protect 50,000 acres of the approximately 180,000 acres in the county. NRCS, through the FRPP Program, has assisted with funding of just under $20 million towards the purchase of easements on 133 parcels covering over 18,000 acres.
NRCS in Kentucky is proud to have Charles in the agency. His work toward conservation and farmland preservation has not gone unnoticed. He is not only successful on the job, Charles has quite an amazing family to be proud of. He and his wife have three children. The oldest son Jon has recently graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in mechanical engineering and has started a new career at GE –Aviation in Cincinnati, OH. Their daughter Morgan has one more semester to finish her senior year studying Nursing at Western Kentucky University. She will working this summer at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, KY. Brandon, the youngest Farmer, graduated from the Gatton Academy for Math and Science (GASC has been named by Newsweek as the 2012 Top High School in America)in May of 2012, he also received the honor of being Valedictorian at his home high school in Bourbon County. This past summer, Brandon conducted bio-medical research at the University of Louisville. Brandon plans to continue his undergraduate studies at Western Kentucky University pursuing a double major in Chemistry / Biology and a minor in Spanish.
For more information about NRCS’ Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program visit the website at http://www.ky.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/2012FRPP/index.html. For more information on the Purchase of Development Rights Program visit their website at: http://www.lexingtonky.gov/index.aspx?page=497