Land Archive

Ample Agricultural & Conservation Funding Available in Central Virginia

If you are a landowner in central Virginia, whether you own farmland, conservation land, or a small plot, you’ll be happy to know that there is ample funding to provide support for maintaining and improving your land. Read on to find out more about specific programs.

Virginia Trees for Clean Water

Trees help remove common pollutants from stormwater, therefore improving the water quality of runoff that enters the drainage system. Virginia Trees for Clean Water provides funds on a reimbursement basis to support the planting of trees in the Commonwealth for this purpose. There is, however, a 50/50 match requirement. Funding is available to private citizens, as well as to educational institutions, non-profit organizations, civic organizations, and local government. The deadline to apply is approaching quickly (February 16, 2017). The application instructions specify, “Winning proposals will demonstrate the merit of the project and how the trees will be maintained in perpetuity.” The program is funded by the USFS Chesapeake Watershed Forestry Program and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and facilitated by the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Headwater Stream Initiative07 DSC_0016And2more

The Headwater Stream Initiative is a program facilitated by the Piedmont Environmental Council in partnership with Friends of the Rappahannock. If you own land in the upper Rappahannock River watershed—which includes all or parts of Madison, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Greene, Orange, and Fauquier counties—you may be eligible to receive free assistance and materials to plant native trees and shrubs along waterways on your property. This vegetation is known as a riparian buffer, which keeps the water cleaner, shades it from higher temperatures, reduces erosion, and improves the natural wildlife habitat. There is no deadline to participate. Simply sign up here.

RCPP Invasive Species Removal

In 2016, Blue Ridge PRISM (Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management) announced that the RCPP (Regional Conservation Partnership Program) had made funds available to help landowners of “nonindustrial private forestland and agricultural producers” remove invasive plants. Blue Ridge PRISM serves Albemarle, Greene, Madison, Nelson, Augusta, Clarke, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham, and Warren counties. Only land located within one of those counties is eligible for funding. Blue Ridge PRISM’s original announcement has more information about what kinds of invasive species are eligible for removal. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, however, the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) may put deadlines in place to stagger applications according to “batching periods.” You can learn more here about eligibility and the application schedule.

USDA Farmers Market Promotion ProgramHiddenBarnDistance2_small

In September 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded a grant of almost $250,000 to the Rappahannock-Rapidan Regional Commission through the Farmers Market Promotion Program in order to promote local agriculture in the northern Piedmont. The funds will be used in part to support marketing of the Madison County Farmers Market and Culpeper Farmers Market, as well as the Tween Rivers Trail—a self-guided tour that highlights the agricultural and artisanal goods of the area. You can read more about the locally awarded grant in The Daily Progress here.

Further Funding

You can also check out many other funding opportunities available through the Thomas Jefferson Soil & Water Conservation District.



Land Use Tax Assessment in Virginia

Land Use Tax Assessment in Virginia

Virginia Farms and Land Use TaxesLand use is exactly what it sounds like…the management and modification of natural environments/wildernesses into “built environments” which house manmade structures like cities and neighborhoods used to serve human needs. Land use laws make it possible for a locality to assess real estate based on “use value” rather than “fair market” value. Land use laws have several purposes: guaranteeing an available source of forest products, conserving natural resources in ways that will prevent erosion, protecting sufficient safe-water supplies, preserving natural beauty and scenic open spaces, promoting proper land-use planning, and reducing pressure to convert places into more intensive land use. In short, land use assessments help landowners stave off pressure to develop land.

Title 58.1-3230 of the Code of Virginia states that, “a county, city, or town may adopt an an ordinance that provides for use-value assessment under four categories: real estate devoted to agricultural use, horticultural use, forest use and open space use. Land used in agricultural and forestal production in an agricultural district, a forestal district, or an agricultural/forestal district is eligible for use value assessment in the absence of a local ordinance.” The State Land Use Advisory Council (SLEAC) was created in 1973 to estimate the use value of qualifying land for every locality participating in a use-value program. As of now, 64 counties and 13 cities in Virginia including Albemarle County participate in a use-value program. There are some people, like Martha Moore of the Virginia Farm Bureau who see land use assessment as an effective (if temporary) method to halt excessive land development. Moore says, “Without land use assessment, the tax burden would increase so rapidly that the land would not be able to be used for agriculture or forestry operations. There would be development at a rapid pace rather than at a planned pace.”

Once a city, county, or locality adopts local land use ordinances, any parcel that meets state criteria for the category in question (agriculture, forestry, etc.) must be granted use value taxation. The County doesn’t have the right to impose any additional eligibility requirements. Before use-value assessment is granted, the local assessing officer must decide whether or not land meets the uniform standards set forth by either the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the State Forester, or the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Are you someone who owns property in Virginia? Wondering if your property qualifies for land use valuation? You must submit an application to the county for taxation on the basis of use assessment at least sixty days prior to the tax year for which the reduced taxation is sought. You must also submit a reapplication whenever acreage or change in land use occurs. You may be asked for any of the following items:

  1. The assigned USDA/ASCS farm number
  2. Federal tax forms like: Farm Expenses and Income (1040 F), Farm Rental Income and Expenses (4835), or Cash Rent for Agricultural Land (1040 E)
  3. A conservation Farm Management and/or Forest Management plan prepared by a professional, or a letter of intent stating that the land will be forested
  4. Evidence that your farm’s gross sales averaged more than $1,000 annually over the past three years

Check out the classifications below to determine whether land use assessments apply to your land. Albemarle County adopted all four land use categories in 1975. From the Albemarle County page on land use, here are the qualifications that your land must meet if you plan to apply for land use valuation:

Agriculture/Horticulture Use: Land used for agricultural use must consist of a minimum of five acres and must meet prescribed standards for a bona fide production for sale of crops and/or livestock or be in an approved soil conservation program. Land used for horticulture use must consist of a minimum of five acres and must meet prescribed standards for bona fide production for sale of fruits, vegetables, ornamental plants and/or ornamental products. In either case, you must also be able to prove a five-year previous history of continuous farming. If land is left vacant, idle, or neglected for a year or more, farm history starts over for five years.

The land needs to be qualified on the basis of selling crops or livestock. It must make over $1,000 annually. The applicant must certify that the real estate is being used in a planned program of management, production and sale of field crops, livestock, poultry, dairy, fruits, vegetables, etc.

If qualifying under livestock classifications, the minimum stocking requirements are: 1 cow, 1 horse, 5 sheep, 5 swine, 100 chickens, and/or 66 turkeys for every five acres. Horses only qualify if they’re being used for breeding or boarding…recreational horses don’t count.

Forest Use: Land used for forestal use must be a minimum of twenty acres and must include standing timber and trees devoted to tree growth in such quantity and so spaced and maintained as to constitute a forest area. Must be exclusively devoted to forestal use, meaning no livestock access (otherwise, you must apply for the agricultural category). Required to have a forest management plan or a letter of intent stating that the land will be forested.

Open Space: Land in open space must be at least 20 acres or such greater minimum acreage, set by local ordinance, and be used to provide or preserve the land for park or recreational purposes, conservation of land or other natural resources, floodways, historic or scenic purposes or to assist in the shaping of the character, direction, or timing of community development, or for the public interest and consistent with the local land use plan. To qualify under open space use, real estate must be subject to a recorded perpetual conservation, historic, or open-space easement held by any public body.

If your Albemarle County land meets any of the aforementioned specifications for agricultural, horticultural, forestal, or open space land use, it would be highly beneficial to apply for land use valuation.  Be sure to contact your county’s governing offices to obtain the latest and most accurate tax information for you land and farming operation. For any more questions about matters of land in central Virginia, contact Gayle Harvey Real Estate today!

Who ya gonna call? Goat Busters!

Virginia GoatsOwning a central Virginia farm just got a little more sustainable. When it comes to issues like a pesky invasive species taking over your property, there are a couple options. Herbicides like RoundUp have been in play for years and require extensive testing by the likes of the EPA before becoming available on the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re 100% safe. Most of them are relatively safe for humans (providing you don’t ingest them) but can still have pretty detrimental ecological effects, doing damage to animal populations (birds especially) and rendering the soil infertile. As is often the case, the cheaper option often wins out, and the use of herbicides in recent decades has become almost as pervasive as some of their target species. But in the past couple years there has been a noticeable surge in the interest of pesticide-free, organic produce grown on organic farms. This is certainly the case with farms near Charlottesville, a city where the farm-to-table aesthetic characterizes the ideology of many farmers, restaurateurs, and consumers. Many farms in Charlottesville are keen to produce healthy, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables on their land. If you want to rear crops on a farm in or near central Virginia without the use of pesticides…heck, if you want to clear persistent weeds or overgrown vegetation on your personal property, who ya gonna call? Goat busters!

Based in Afton and servicing land in the Greater Charlottesville area and beyond (at least as far as Richmond), Goat Busters fearlessly commands a fleet of goats and uses them to rid your land of pesky plants. Kinda makes sense if you think about. Using these scrappy, stubborn, hard-headed animals to combat plants with the tenacity of kudzu or Japanese honeysuckle comes down to fighting fire with fire. The benefits are many: you get to avoid the detrimental effects that herbicides have on soil integrity and save the money you’d spend on heavy, industrial machinery. Goats normally eat lots of vines, but when the weather gets dry, their diets diversify. They’ll eat poison ivy, poison oak, and many other plants native to land in central Virginia. And they’ll get in between rocks, steep hills, and other hard-to-reach places with ease. They’ll also spot check troublesome areas because as you probably know, clearing a plot of land is not just a one-and-done task. The plants are pretty attached to your land, and they aren’t giving in easily. You’ll have to address trouble spots more than once, whether it be repeated applications of herbicides or repeat visits from hungry goats. The Goat Busters pledge to devote as much time as necessary to a plot of land, and subsequent waves are cheaper, since there is less work for the goats to do on second and third visits. And of course, the end result of having a bunch of goats grazing the encroaching plants on your land includes a bunch of rich, smelly, eco-friendly fertilizer as part of the deal.

Obviously these guys aren’t the only option for clearing land overrun by persistent, invasive plant species. Herbicides are cheaper and more economical (at least from a monetary perspective). It would probably be more affordable in the long run to buy your own goats, have them graze the portions of your land that are overrun, and sell them once the job was done. But with this course of action come all the extra responsibilities. You must consider fencing, predation, dealing with goat health and providing food, water and shelter, not to mention the time it takes to buy and sell them. But there’s no denying the advantages to this method of land clearing. If you’re sitting on farmland or a rural estate in central Virginia and you’re looking for environmentally-conscious ways to address an invasive plant species, consider the Goat Busters. Your land may thank you some day.