Voluntary Agricultural and Forestal Areas
The rural areas of Charleston County are highly threatened by encroaching development. There is a strong agricultural history in these areas, particularly on Johns and James Island. Furthermore, these farms are the best resource for local food in the Charleston area. However, housing developments and annexations threaten Johns Island from Charleston to the northeast, and Kiawah to the southwest.
The newest version Charleston County Comprehensive Plan, approved in 2015, recommended the creation of a Voluntary Agricultural and Forestal Area, which establishes stronger protection for farmers and foresters in the County. The County Planning Department is working on finalizing an ordinance to create this program and the Conservation League has been providing input and guidance. When the County Council passes the ordinance, the League will work with farmers on the most threatened farmland in Charleston County to utilize this new tool. By protecting local farms, we are also protecting our access to healthy, sustainable, and delicious local food, and ensuring the rural landscape that characterizes the Lowcountry remains intact.
We need to raise awareness about this exciting tool and ensure that our County Council approves it, and takes action to protect our most vulnerable farmers. If County Council passes this ordinance, Charleston County can be a model for other urbanizing counties in the Lowcountry. When farmers opt into the VAFA, they will receive higher visibility on county maps and documents and a clear designation that their land is in a rural area. By adopting this classification, farmers in threatened rural areas can continue protecting the land, air and water, while providing our community with healthy, fresh food.