Wake County celebrates biggest farmland preservation project in history

125 acres now permanently protected from development

The Wake County Board of Commissioners partnered with Triangle Land Conservancy to permanently conserve one of the last remaining large farms in Wendell, marking the single largest dedication of funds for farmland preservation in the county and state and one of the largest in the nation.

Father and son, James and Matthew Bailey, have voluntarily agreed to place 125 acres of their 129-acre farm into the Wake Soil and Water Conservation District’s Farmland Preservation Program, which will permanently safeguard the property from development. While this working farm continues to be privately owned by the Bailey family, and is not open to the public, it will ensure that this land is protected for the future production of food, open space and wildlife habitat. To mark this exceptional achievement, Wake County Soil and Water District presents the Bailey family with the Patrick H. Johnson Farmland Preservation Award for 2023.

“This is another important step to ensure that we’re saving important land for producing food and we’re protecting wildlife habitat and our water quality," said Vice Chair Susan Evans of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “We’re losing so much farmland every year, so we’re proud to partner with the Bailey family to preserve this land for future generations.”

The Bailey Farm is a working farm located just outside of Wendell  eastern Wake County, near Wendell Park and Carver Elementary School. The property includes 55 acres of cropland which are leased to local farmers who grow a variety of vegetables, such as squash and sweet potatoes. The Wake Soil and Water Conservation District has certified that approximately 75% of the farm's soils are considered prime farmland, holding statewide importance and protecting streams and wildlife.

“This land was originally owned by my uncle, Cedric Todd, where he ran a dairy farm and later raised beef cows,” said James Bailey. “When he passed away in 2014 my son Matt and I were very surprised to learn that he had left the farm to us, together with a note saying he hoped we would enjoy the land as much as he did, and that we would grow something other than houses on it. Putting the farm into a permanent conservation easement is the best way we could honor his wishes, and keep the land from ever being developed.”

This 125-acre conservation easement is valued at $2.5 million. Wake County used nearly $1.1 million in deferred taxes as part of the newly expanded Farmland Preservation program. The remaining 60% was donated by the landowners. Triangle Land Conservancy will hold and monitor the easement in perpetuity to ensure that this land is truly protected.

“This innovative program is a true game changer for farmland conservation and we applaud Wake County for blazing a path that other counties around the state are already beginning to emulate,” said Triangle Land Conservancy’s Executive Director Sandy Sweitzer. “We are immensely grateful to Wake County for their support of farmland conservation, and to the Bailey family for deciding to preserve this land for future generations.” 

This the second time that Wake County worked with Triangle Land Conservancy to use the funds to preserve prime farmland through the Farmland Preservation Program.

In 2022, the Board of Commissioners approved the Wake County Farmland Preservation Ordinance, confirming the County’s commitment to farmland preservation. With the ordinance change, Commissioners agreed to use the annual rollback tax funding to preserve farmland in the form of purchasing permanent conservation easements.

This action supports the Board of Commissioners' Goal of  Economic Strength Goal 3.3: Strengthen County services and policies that support agribusinesses, including farmland preservation, next-generation farming and promoting local food systems and agritourism.

Press Release