Johnson Family Farm receives permanent protection

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

October 15, 2013

DOBSON — Much of America’s prime farmland has been lost to development over the years, but that will not be the case with the Johnson Family Farm just outside Dobson.

That’s because of a permanent conservation easement that has been placed on what is considered one of Surry County’s most beautiful agricultural settings, according to the Piedmont Land Conservancy (PLC).

The Johnson family has agreed to a conservation easement on 367 acres of its farm to the Piedmont Land Conservancy so that it will always remain as productive farmland for future generations.

“It’s a good feeling,” Wesley Johnson, a member of the longtime operation, said Monday of knowing that the site will be protected for years to come. “You don’t have to worry — it will always be farmed.”

The conservation easement allows the Johnsons to maintain full, private ownership of the farm while limiting the future use of the property.

“You don’t have to worry about anything being developed on it,” Wesley Johnson said.

In addition to Wesley, the family includes couples Mark and Molly Johnson and Randy and Carolyn Johnson, along with Will Johnson. Mark is the brother of Randy and the father of Will and Wesley.

Over the years they have raised tobacco, corn, wheat, soybeans and beef cattle on the land.

Along with its rich agricultural productivity, the new conservation easement protects the beauty of the scenic rural landscape along Surry County’s Zephyr Road corridor, connecting Interstate 77 to the heart of Dobson, for residents and visitors alike, a PLC official says.

“We are very grateful for the Johnsons’ leadership on farmland-preservation issues,” added Kevin Redding, executive director of the Piedmont Land Conservancy. “By protecting these fertile fields through their partnership with PLC, the family has further exemplified their commitment to farming’s future in Surry County.”

The conservation easement by the Piedmont Land Conservancy is part of a bigger picture regarding the Zephyr Road corridor, Redding said.

In 2012, the Surry Board of Commissioners adopted the Surry County Farmland Preservation Plan, which identifies that corridor as being among the most productive farming areas in the county.

With funding assistance from the N.C. Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, this plan was created through a partnership of the Surry County Soil and Water Conservation District, Surry County Extension Service, Piedmont Land Conservancy, farmers and other interested citizens in the county. Its goal is finding ways to help keep important farmland in agricultural production.

The conservation easement granted by the Johnsons to the Piedmont Land Conservancy is a major step for the county toward the implementation of the plan, Redding said.

Thanks to the Johnsons’ commitment to conservation, their fertile fields will remain “a picture no artist could draw” in perpetuity, the PLC official said.

The Piedmont Land Conservancy operates as a non-profit, grassroots land trust in nine North Carolina counties: Alamance, Caswell, Forsyth, Guilford, Randolph, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin.

It permanently protects important lands to conserve the region’s rivers and streams, natural and scenic areas, wildlife habitats, farmland and urban greenways and parks, which make the Piedmont a healthy and vibrant place to live, work and visit.

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or