The U.S. is losing agricultural land to commercial, industrial, and residential development. Every state is converting ag acres to other uses, but the South is losing more farmland than any other region. Southern states’ policy response has also lagged behind other parts of the country. Why does this matter? First, it matters because we need land to grow food. And second, agricultural land can sequester carbon and it emits less greenhouse gases than developed land.

Some municipalities, like Lexington, Kentucky, are stepping up farmland preservation efforts. Taking advantage of their local program, the James family, in Lexington, has placed conservation easements on their farm to guarantee that it can never be developed. But not all landowners can rely on such programs to protect their land.

Irina Zhorov reported and produced this episode.

John James (left) and Robert James (right) worried their Kentucky farm would one day be turned into subdivisions. To avoid that fate, the family placed their land under a conservation easement that permanently disallows development. It’s a model other farmers are eyeing as agricultural land in the South is eaten up by residential and commercial projects. Photo courtesy of Katie James.

Thank you to Blue Dot Sessions for the music used to score this episode. Tracks include:
“Denzel Sprak”—CloudCover
“Campfire Rounds”—Zander

Top photo:

The James farm has been in the same family for nearly 200 years. Recently, the family placed it under a conservation easement that permanently restricts development on the land. Photo courtesy of Katie James.