Enrolling in the Chatham County Voluntary Agricultural District Program

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What is the Voluntary Agricultural District?

The Chatham County Voluntary Agricultural District (VAD) promotes the agricultural values and general welfare of the county by raising awareness of the importance of our agricultural community and its way of life. This is accomplished by encouraging the preservation of agriculture, horticulture, and forestry through protection from non-farm development. VAD is overseen by the Agricultural Advisory Board, which acts at the local government level to serve the interests of farmers in the county. The board includes nine appointed Chatham County residents who are actively engaged in agriculture.

The Chatham County VAD, first adopted in 2001, had grown to nearly 30,000 acres of enrolled farmland by 2019, when the program was amended to comply with state statutes. The amendments added a conservation agreement and removed acreage restrictions, enabling VAD to include more farming operations. Chatham County landowners who enrolled their farmland in VAD prior to August 19, 2019, are asked to re-apply to continue as a Voluntary Agricultural District. To date, efforts to re-enroll the original farms and invite new farms to participate in VAD have resulted in nearly 10,000 acres of enrolled farmland.

What are the Benefits of Enrollment?

VAD enrollment encourages the preservation and protection of farmland. By participating in the program, neighbors, potential property buyers, and the public are made aware of the location of the working farm, discouraging possible nuisance complaints. Enrolled landowners can receive a sign (while supplies last) to display at their farm to show that the property is working farmland. The property is also publicly designated as VAD on the county’s GIS website and on the property tax card.

Additionally, farms belonging to a VAD will not be required to connect to county water or sewer. Any potential assessment fees are suspended without interest unless and until property is connected. Farms enrolled in VAD may also benefit from higher ranking in Chatham Soil and Water Conservation District cost-share programs. Landowners enrolled in the Chatham County VAD voluntarily agree to protect their land from development for ten years.

Who Should Enroll?

Qualifying farmland includes property that:

  • is actively engaged in agriculture,
  • is well managed to prevent soil erosion,
  • is located in unincorporated areas of Chatham County, and
  • can be kept in agriculture for at least ten years.

How to Enroll

Interested landowners may request an application or apply for VAD. Please contact Chatham Soil and Water Conservation District at (919) 542-8228 with questions or for assistance filling out the VAD application.