Cleveland County book to raise funds for farmland preservation
One North Carolina county is using the past to help preserve farming for the future.
“Cleveland County Agriculture” is a new book that features nearly 200 black-and-white farming photos from the county, and documents how agriculture has changed over the decades. Proceeds from the book will raise funds for the Cleveland County Farmland Preservation Program, a program that creates awareness of agriculture and seeks to preserve farms.
The book will be sold at the Foothills Farmers’ Market in Shelby and at the USDA office at 844 Wallace Grove Drive. It also can be ordered online at ArcadiaPress.com. The price is $21.99.
The book came about after the 2014 discovery of a box of black-and-white photos from the 1940s through the 1960s. Many photos showed how farmers were trying to prevent erosion, such as building terraces with mules and drag pans.
“We thought it was such a waste that these photos were sitting in the back of the storage room and nobody could see them,” said Stephen Bishop, soil conservationist for the district. “So we contacted a publishing company about creating a book to benefit farmland preservation.”
Arcadia Publishing liked the idea and told Bishop they would need 200 photos to create the book, essentially needing to double the amount the District had. It took about a year to find enough additional photos. Bishops says a lot of local residents brought in photos and told stories about growing up on the farm, and he tried to document those stories, as well. Other old photos were found at the local cooperative extension office and archives of Gardner-Webb University.
Cleveland County has a rich agricultural history, frequently leading the state in cotton production from the 1930s to the 1950s. The county later became a leader in dairy production, with nearly 1,000 farms reporting milk sales in 1954.
“A lot has changed,” Bishop said. “For the first time in the recorded history of the county, not a single stalk of cotton was grown here in 2016, and we are now down to three dairies.”
Poultry, soybeans and grain, and beef cattle are the three biggest sectors of agriculture in the county today. Cleveland County still generates $120 million in agricultural sales each year, nearly double any surrounding county.
For more information, contact the Cleveland Soil and Water Conservation Office at 704-471-0235, ext. 3, or firstname.lastname@example.org