VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia Beach and Chesapeake are among five localities across Virginia to receive farmland preservation grants from the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Farmland Preservation.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the $875,000 in grant awards Wednesday.

The five localities, which also include Clarke, Fauquier and Stafford counties in the northern part of the state, will provide matching funds to support local purchase of development rights programs.

Such programs allow localities to limit development on priority farm and forest lands and give an incentive to landowners who, on a volunteer basis, want to protect their working lands.

“Virginia is home to approximately 16 million acres of forests and over 7.7 million acres of farmland and we are proud to support the preservation of these natural resources,” said Youngkin said in a statement. “Farms and working forests are the foundation of Virginia’s rural economy, and farmland preservation benefits landowners, local communities, and the environment.”

Since the program began in 2008, $13.2 million in state matching funds has been used to partner with 16 local purchase of development rights programs to permanently protect more than 14,800 acres on 113 farms in Virginia.

“As our first and third largest private industries in the Commonwealth, agriculture and forestry are essential to the lives of all Virginians regardless of where they live,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “Protecting our working landscapes intact and productive is essential to maintaining Virginia’s agricultural viability into the future. These areas grow the food we all depend on while purifying the air we breathe.”

Travis Voylers, acting secretary of natural and historic resources, said farming and forestry have been central to the culture of the state and its management of natural resources through the state’s history.

“In addition to their economic impact, the land used for agriculture and forestry continues to provide vital environmental and aesthetic benefits,” Voylers said.

Localities interested in doing more to protect their vital working farms and forestlands by creating a PDR program or implementing other best practices should contact Jen Perkins, Coordinator, Office of Farmland Preservation, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, at or (804) 786-1906.