Forsyth County Board of Commissioners recently voted to preserve over 200 acres of farmland in Forsyth County at a regular meeting on Thursday, Nov. 4.
Commissioners approved a conditional use permit, or CUP, for five different farms for the purposes of agritourism. All CUPs were approved with a 5-0 vote unless stated otherwise.
Kinsey Family Farm
Kinsey Family Farm, a farm with more than 50 acres off Jot Em Down Road in north Forsyth, was the first to receive a conditional use permit.
Owner Jim Kinsey addressed the board and thanked County Manager Kevin Tanner for his help with the application process.
“The proposals and the energy that [Tanner’s] put into this initiative will wind up preserving hundreds of acres of farmland, making it easier for those of us who are working in agritourism to keep our farms and to keep them profitable,” Kinsey said.
Kinsey said that to him it was “very important” to preserve existing farmland in the county.
Kinsey Family Farm’s specialties include fall activities, Christmas trees and landscape trees.
Warbington Farms, with almost 45 acres off Crow Road, was also granted a CUP.
“We have a strong desire to preserve our land and keep as much as we can in agriculture,” owner Delana Heard said. “We truly believe that the agritourism rezoning will benefit us and other farms in doing so.”
Warbington Farms’ specialties include U-pick strawberries, pumpkins, field trips and a corn maze.
Castleberry Farms was granted a CUP and is on about 25 acres off Keith Bridge Road.
In April, owner Sam Castleberry spoke to the board about the farm’s future. Castleberry said he and his family had been farming in Forsyth County for over 100 years, and he hoped to continue to sell locally grown produce, such as green beans and tomatoes, and beef.
Bottoms Christmas Tree Farm
Bottoms Christmas Tree Farm, on John Burruss Road, received a CUP for agritourism on over 60 acres with a 4-0 vote with Chairwoman Cindy Jones Mills recused due to a familial relationship.
The farm opened in 1997 and is the oldest operating Christmas tree farm in Forsyth County.
Bottoms Christmas Tree Farm’s specialties include the “highest-quality, locally-grown Christmas trees” such as white pines, Fraser firs, Carolina sapphires and Leyland cypresses.
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Unlike the four farms that were already zoned agriculture district, A1, Henderson Farms was zoned single family residential restricted district, R2R. Applicant Robbie Henderson requested a CUP for agritourism and a rezoning from R2R to A1.
Henderson Farms, a proposed farm off Pilgrim Mill and Sinclair Shores roads, is comprised of over 30 acres.
Henderson said he and his family have no intentions of having a tree farm on the property, nor are they planning to raise cattle. He said he was asking for the rezoning and CUP to preserve the farmland.
Jerry Henderson, Robbie’s dad, said the farm has been operational prior to the 50s.
“If you had been there in 1931, you would have seen my dad and his brothers and sister picking cotton there,” Jerry Henderson said. “My grandfather bought that [property], and it was a cotton farm at that time.”
“We were there when Lake Lanier was built,” he said.
There were some concerns from residents about possible traffic issues caused by facets of agritourism, such as farming, horticulture and livestock rearing.
Henderson said he didn’t want to see the property turned into a subdivision, which could arguably bring more traffic.
He also said the only tourism aspects that he and his family were considering were sunflower patches for pictures and possible weddings on-site at the barn.
Both the CUP and rezoning request were approved by the BOC.
Chairwoman Cindy Jones Mills said that “on the record,” she was happy to be able to approve a request to rezone from a residential district to an agricultural one.
“If I ever have anybody approach me and they want to change a residential zoning to [agriculture], I mean, I want to give them a hug and I want to say, ‘Thank you, Lord. I’m so thankful that you want to change to agricultural,’” Mills said. “Any day of the week, … I’ll do it.”
CUP for agritourism
For farms to participate in agritourism in Forsyth County, owners have to have an approved CUP so that impacts to adjacent properties are limited, the rural character is maintained and the agricultural heritage of the county is preserved.
Any property wishing to apply for a CUP for agritourism must be at least 20 acres, and overnight lodging is prohibited as any part of its use.
Agricultural activity permitted can include farming, horticulture, livestock rearing, and related retail uses, such as offering products that support the agricultural activities of the property.