Christian Diaz, Staff Writer (cdiaz@wwc)
Warren Wilson’s Farm Manager Chase Hubbard defeated incumbent Jeff Turner on Tuesdays’ election by 143 votes, earning a spot on Buncombe County’s Soil and Water Conservation Board.
Hubbard received a majority of the vote in the Swannanoa, Montford, West Asheville and North Asheville districts and had a significant presence in the Asheville city polls. Hubbard earned about 20,000 votes in the county.
“There’s still an idealist in me that believes the right person wins,” said Hubbard. “In my mind and in the minds of a lot of people who do conservation work in town, that’s the way it was supposed to go. It just seemed natural with all energy and the other people that endorsed me. It seemed like I would win. Of course it turned out to be an extremely tight race.”
Through a program involving education, technical assistance and financing, the Soil and Water Conservation District supports landowners who require assistance in planning and implementing erosion control and water quality maintenance.
“At the base it means we have meetings once a month as a board,” explained Hubbard, “and we approve contracts for farmers on conservation programs and we assist them. We officially supervise the conservation district, technicians and education people that run conservation field days which involve hundreds of children who visit each year.”
Hubbard is credited with several conservation initiatives here at Warren Wilson. Among these efforts are reforestation and streamside buffers on the Swannanoa River. According to Hubbard, managing the Warren Wilson farm is his top qualification and priority.
“This farm is one of the most progressive farms in the county. We are serious about growing food. I want to balance that with conservation. My experience in food production and conservation practices is really what I bring to this board,” Hubbard said.
“The ways in which I can be effective in that position is synergistically approaching it,” he noted. “There are things that are very compatible with the work I do, that enhance student experience and conservation efforts in the county. These are things that I’m going to spend my time on. But this is more than a full time job, managing the farm.”
Hubbard is not new to public service. He has served on the Local Farmland Preservation Board and on the Swannanoa Valley Flood Task Force. The overlap in his duties provides for the opportunity to address conservation efficiently.
“By being involved in all these committees that are relevant to each other does give me a lot of opportunity for synergy. Leadership is all about expanding your capacity to get things done through relationships and leveraging resources throughout the community. I’ll be looking for opportunities to collaborate with local organizations and government agencies in the county to further develop conservation awareness,” Hubbard said.
“What I would like to do is continue to increase our outreach to citizens and landowners of Buncombe County to make sure to provide educational efforts for them so that they know about conservation strategies that they can get government dollars for, strategies for putting their land in conservation easement,” he said.
Not one to celebrate, Hubbard is ready to get to work.
“I have a lot of supporters that are looking to have their voice heard in conservation issues. In some ways the community drives what we do but I’ve listed some ideas about what I want to contribute. Although I think it is an accomplishment getting elected, it pales in comparison to the kind of conservation work that we do here and the education work that we do here or what I think I can do in this position. What it means to me is I’m ready to get to work,” he said.
“Winning was good, but It’s not like I won the lottery. I came in to work today and didn’t think about it a whole lot, I thought about the projects I needed to get done in my agenda today for the farm. I’m glad I won, I’m glad I can contribute but I’m just a pragmatist,” he said.
The Soil and Water Conservation District is a branch of the government set up in the aftermath of the Dust Bowl which afflicted Unites States farmers during the 1930s. It aims to protect natural resources and improve the ways in which they are used in local agriculture.