Farmland Protection Director

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy

Asheville , North Carolina

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) is an established land trust serving a 10-county region in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Since 1974, we have conserved more than 70,000 acres of the region’s most important lands, including thousands of acres of working farms and forests.

SAHC is committed to building a network of protected farms in western North Carolina and east Tennessee, to enable the region’s agricultural heritage and economy to flourish for future generations. To achieve this, we purchase conservation easements (CE’s) on working farms and forestland, using federal, state and local grants, leveraged with private philanthropic contributions and donations of value by the landowners. Proceeds of these transactions provide capital for farmers to develop their agricultural businesses, supporting long-term productive use of farmland rather than losing it to real estate development. Sometimes SAHC purchases farmland to protect it from development. The Farmland Protection Director leads this work, coordinating closely with other SAHC staff.

Description: Full time exempt, with benefits. The Farmland Protection Director works to advance SAHC’s Farmland Protection Program and complete CE’s on key farms, and is supervised by the Executive Director.

Responsibilities: The Farmland Protection Director is responsible for creating and implementing an annual work plan for SAHC’s Farmland Protection Program. The work plan should include the following functions:

Program development. Take strategic steps to grow and develop SAHC’s Farmland Program: 

  • Continue to refine farmland conservation planning to focus our outreach for new CE opportunities and communicate the cumulative impact of our accomplishments.
  • Build and maintain relationships with community leaders, government agency representatives, organizational partners and other potential partners, promoting SAHC’s role as a valuable partner in farmland conservation.
  • Plan and pursue one-on-one meetings, outreach presentations and other actions to build and maintain relationships described above.

Landowner outreach. Perform decision-making about which farms are high priorities to pursue for conservation, and conduct proactive relationship-building with agricultural landowners to develop pool of potential applicants for future conservation easement transactions.

  • Plan potential transactions three years ahead if possible.
  • Regularly evaluate how many farm CE transactions it is reasonable for SAHC to pursue each year.

Transactions. Plan and implement timeline of transaction steps:

  • Negotiate with landowners for CE purchase or acquisition of their farm in fee simple by SAHC. Advise them on structuring transactions that protect their land and solve financial challenges. Help families overcome logistical and emotional problems of inter-generational land ownership and succession planning so they can move forward and protect their land.
  • Develop achievable transaction budgets that meet landowner goals, are realistic for SAHC to raise needed revenue, and cover transaction costs and SAHC’s costs of undertaking the project.
  • Present CE and fee simple proposals to SAHC Land Protection Committee and Board of Trustees for approval.
  • Research & submit grant proposals to USDA ACEP, NC ADFP, & other grant-makers for funds to purchase CEs.
  • Coordinate with Executive Director on securing private philanthropic matching funds for proposals.
  • Administer grants and conduct due diligence for transactions. Obtain title work, appraisals, land surveying, environmental hazard reports, and baseline documentation of conditions on property. Solve boundary and legal access problems, in order to close on CEs.
  • Draft CE’s in coordination with stewardship staff, assuring CE terms are enforceable and can be monitored.
  • Coordinate with landowner, stewardship staff, and NRCS to develop farm conservation plans for CEs, and facilitate landowners implementing plans to maximize protection of water quality.

Promote “Buy, Protect, Farm.” Plan opportunities to communicate about and advance our strategy of “Buy, Protect, Farm,” furthering SAHC’s role in the Farm Pathways Partnership with Organic Growers School and WNC FarmLink, supported by the federal USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development grant.

Interface with SAHC Community Farm and Food Program, WNC FarmLink and Organic Grower’s School. Coordinate with SAHC’s Community Farm and Food Program Associate, WNC FarmLink staff and Organic Growers School staff to ensure that SAHC’s Farmland Program is connected with the Farm Pathways Partnership referenced above.

Supervise associates and interns Co-supervise Americorps Land Protection and Education Associate with SAHC Land Protection Director, and supervise interns where appropriate.

Staff liaison to the Land Protection Committee. Coordinate with Land Protection Director to present transactions to LPC and document LPC meetings and decisions.

Perform other responsibilities and activities as deemed appropriate by the Executive Director and Associate Director. Work cooperatively with and maintain good communications with other staff and Board members.

Evaluation. Evaluate progress annually in meeting program goals.


  • Bachelor degree & experience in land stewardship & management, farming, agricultural agencies, conservation and real estate. Four or more years of professional land trust and sustainable agriculture-related experience.
  • Ability to develop work plans, project budgets, and manage projects. Close attention to detail and accuracy, with strong organizational abilities. Ability to complete projects within deadline and established budget.
  • Grant-seeking skill. Familiarity with Federal and State agricultural grant programs
  • Tact, diplomacy and negotiating skill. Ability to maintain forward momentum in delicate situations, and to effectively communicate information to someone who may disagree or dislike what is being said, without alienating that person, and to persuade him or her to understand the situation from a new perspective.
  • Knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices, agricultural Best Management Practices for water quality, the local food system in WNC, and local agriculture-related issues.
  • Persistence, sense of humor, and entrepreneurial spirit. Ability to balance and pursue multiple projects simultaneously. High tolerance for meeting competing demands efficiently, without becoming flustered.
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills, including public speaking. Ability to communicate effectively with people, organizations, and agencies. Negotiation skill and experience preferred.
  • Desire and talent for working as part of a team. Enthusiastic, creative, self-motivated individual able to work independently and with coworkers and volunteers, and to motivate these colleagues.
  • Ability and commitment to maintain confidentiality.
  • Valid driver’s license required with acceptable DMV record.

The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed by people assigned to this position. They are not to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills required. All personnel may be required to perform duties outside of their normal responsibilities from time to time, as needed.

Job Category: Full time, exempt, with benefits.

Salary: Commensurate with experience and skills.

To Apply: Interested applicants should submit a cover letter, resume with salary history or salary requirements, and 3 professional references to Carl Silverstein – Please include “Farmland Protection Director” in subject line. No phone calls please. Open until filled. SAHC is an Equal Opportunity Employer.