Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Integrated Science and Technology


Agricultural/Forestal Districts (AFDs) are rural conservation zones reserved for the production of agricultural products and function to protect agricultural and forestal lands as important natural resources. These districts are formed voluntarily by Virginia landowners and provide a number of important benefits to the landowners and surrounding communities. From a stewardship and administration standpoint, it would benefit both landowners and administrators to determine areas needing improvement within the AFD program. Also, it would be beneficial to these same parties to determine optimal methods for promoting the program to landowners who are not currently AFD members. The evaluation and understanding of these two topics could lead to an increased number of protected agricultural acres in the future as a result of implemented program improvements and improved program promotion. Gaining landowner perspective is the key to making these needed program adjustments. To capture and analyze this perspective, a mailed survey approved by the James Madison University Institutional Review Board was distributed as part of this study. The landowner feedback was used to address the two topics of interest previously mentioned. The survey responses were analyzed and summarized using a descriptive statistics approach. Due to low response rate, no statistical conclusions were drawn from the survey feedback. According to the survey responses received, AFD landowners see the conservation aspect as being the number one program benefit and most did not see the program as having any drawbacks. Word of mouth and scheduled meetings were the top two suggestions for raising program awareness. This study found that the AFD program lacks sufficient incentive to encourage landowner participation. Also, AFDs pale in comparison to the benefits perpetual conservation easements offer landowners who are financially driven. Subjective conclusions and recommendations originated from both quantitative survey response findings and qualitative data gathered from both human and text based resources. The program needs to improve its incentives before it can really focus on promotion. AFDs seem to appeal to landowners who are interested in formal land conservation, but do not want the permanent restrictions of conservation easements.