ORANGE COUNTY, NC (December 19, 2016) — Vann Bennett and Bernadette Pelissier, owners of Persimmon Hill Farm in Cedar Grove, donated to Orange County a permanent conservation easement that restricts future development on their 90-acre farm to protect prime farmland soils and forested stream buffers. The project was accomplished through Orange County’s Lands Legacy Program.

“My husband and I have had a long-time dream of preserving farmland for the future,” Pelissier said. “We have now fulfilled this dream.”

“This remarkably generous, civic-minded gesture by former commissioner Bernadette Pelissier and Dr. Vann Bennett will allow them to retain control of their farmland while assuring the long-term protection of the natural resources from future development pressures and other degradation,” said Mark Dorosin, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements that permanently protect land for its natural or cultural resource values while leaving it in private ownership.

The landowners grow organic blueberries and lease portions of the farm for a variety of row crops and vegetables. The farm is located in the South Hyco Creek watershed, within which an agricultural conservation easement will have a dual effect of protecting prime farmland and surface water quality. The many streams on the farm flow generally northward and into Person County, where they are a source of drinking water for residents of Roxboro.

County staff worked with the landowners to prepare an agreement that meets their needs and the county’s public interests. The easement will allow the construction of one future residence, but prohibits future subdivision of the property. The easement will protect forested stream buffers located throughout the farm. Most all other non-agricultural development rights will be extinguished. Future farm activities will be in accordance with a conservation plan prepared for this farm by the Orange Soil & Water Conservation District.

Earlier this month Bernadette Pelissier completed her second term on the Orange County Board of Commissioners, choosing not to run for a third term. She served on the board for eight years, and she and her husband decided to make this parting gift to the residents of Orange County.

Orange County’s Lands Legacy Program was established in 2000. Persimmon Hill Farm is the program’s 33rd conservation easement (totaling 2,243 acres), but only the fifth easement donation. With this acquisition, Lands Legacy has conserved 3,287 acres of land for a variety of public purposes, including new parkland, nature preserves, watershed buffers, and farmland conservation. More than $4 million in Federal and State grant funds have been used to match county land conservation funds in order to accomplish these projects.