Protecting the Best of Bethel

A Brief Guide for Landowners, Businesses, Elected Officials, Visitors, and…Everyone

The Bethel Community of Haywood County in Western North Carolina seems to have it all, but maybe that’s the problem.

The Blue Ridge Parkway curves gracefully along the area’s high southern border, while Highways 215 and 276 form the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. From almost any direction, you can spot Cold Mountain, the peak made famous by Charles Frazier’s novel and subsequent movie. Tourists and residents hike and camp in two wilderness areas within Pisgah National Forest, while others fish for trout in the upper reaches of the Pigeon River. The Pigeon also provides water for the Town of Canton and for Evergreen Packaging, the county’s largest employer. The river’s bottomlands contain some of North Carolina’s most unique alluvial soils, where farmers grow excellent tasting tomatoes, peppers, and other crops.

These great resources also attract development, and Haywood County has already lost eighty percent of its prime farmland. However, in a telephone opinion survey conducted by Mars Hill College, Duke University, and the American Farmland Trust, ninety-four percent of local residents stated that they would like Bethel to continue to be a rural agricultural community.

There is no magic solution for saving Bethel—or any other rural community in North Carolina or elsewhere in America. However, every single person can do something to help, from simple decisions about what food to put on the table to more complex decisions about what to do with the family farm.

Protect Rural Land

  • Participate in Haywood County’s Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural District program.
  • Provide donations and grants to help fund conservation easements to protect working farms and working forests from development pressures.
  • Support sensible land use approaches that help guide appropriate levels and locations for development activities.
  • Make the tough choice to protect the family farm when more lucrative offers are available.

Support the Rural Economy

  • Buy locally grown produce and other local farm products at grocery stores, restaurants, local tailgate markets, roadside stands, and pick-your-own farms to help make sure farmers can earn a decent living off their land.
  • Ask grocers and restaurant owners to carry more local farm products, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, sweet corn, trout, flowers, plants, Christmas trees, and more.

Keep Bethel Different

  • Maintain the scenic views and prized resources that make Bethel worthy of state and federal designations.
  • Encourage protection of those lands closest to our creeks and rivers, especially the vast floodplain lands that help absorb heavy rains and floodwaters.
  • Participate in cultural events, like the Cold Mountain Heritage Tour, in order to learn about, celebrate, and protect Bethel’s rich history.

These aren’t the only solutions, but they can serve as building blocks for a long-term effort to protect Bethel—and other rural communities.

A Beginning, Not an Ending

The Pigeon River was named for a bird that once gathered in flocks large enough to darken the sky, but the passenger pigeon is now extinct. Surely the farms of the Upper Pigeon River watershed once seemed just as common, but those lands have been steadily disappearing.

While the final outcome for the passenger pigeon is sealed forevermore, the fate of the Bethel Community is not. It won’t be easy to protect all the great resources that Bethel has to offer, but it is possible, and the area is worthy of the attention.

Whether you are a local resident, landowner, tourist, grocer, restaurant owner, elected official, philanthropist, an employee of federal, state, or local government, or anyone else, you have a chance to make a difference – by keeping Bethel much the same. We welcome your support!

For Additional Information

To learn more about what you can do to help the Bethel Community stay rural, please explore the links on this page. For other questions, please contact George Ivey, Bethel Rural Preservation Project Coordinator, by e-mail at or by phone at (828) 712-6474. Thank you for helping us protect the best of Bethel!

Haywood County Produce Promotional Video
Haywood Waterways
Buy Haywood Market Development Project
Water Quality Protection Plan
NC Agriculture Commissioner Troxler Visits Bethel
Telephone Survey Addressing Bethel Rural Preservation Issues
Bethel Water and Sewer Issues, from 2004

The Southwestern NC Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Bethel Rural Community Organization thank the Pigeon River Fund for its financial support for our efforts to protect the rural lands of the Upper Pigeon River Valley.”

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