Paint Rock Farm’s Partnership with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy


Located in Hot Springs, North Carolina, Paint Rock Farm is an undisturbed oasis of more than 162 acres in the midst of the Pisgah National Forest, overlooking the French Broad River. The property has a fully restored 3,200 square foot barn, 30 acres of pastoral fields and multiple ceremony sites. The barn is used as a unique wedding venue, and the property offers glamping, as well.

The founders of Paint Rock Farm—William Dickerson, Allison Smith, and Chris Nelson —were inspired by the property’s incomparable beauty when they discovered it 12 years ago. Bordered by the French Broad River on one side, tucked up against National Forest on the other, and with 360 panoramic views of additional national forest in every direction, the property is a treasure. When they purchased it, they were motivated by a desire to protect it from development so that it could be enjoyed by others for years to come.

William explains, “As a conservationist, one of my main goals was to protect the integrity of the forest, so in 2010 my former business partner Ken Bagwell and I placed the entire forest into a conservation easement with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, forever protecting the forest as well as the view shed, because this property can be seen from many area hiking trails including the Appalachian Trail. “

Founded in 1974 as a non-profit, charitable organization, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) is an Asheville-based conservation trust. Its mission is to conserve the unique plant and animal habitat, clean water, local farmland, scenic beauty, and a range of places where people—today and in the future—can enjoy areas of public outdoor recreation in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The organization achieves this by forging and maintaining long-term conservation relationships with private landowners and public agencies, owning and managing land, and encouraging healthy local communities.

“We’re so pleased that William and his partners at Paint Rock Farm approached SAHC to donate this conservation easement,” said SAHC Executive Director Carl Silverstein. “It permanently protects more than 110 acres of forests and streams, a wedge-shaped slice of pie adjoining the Pisgah National Forest on one side and the French Broad River on the other. By removing the threat of it ever being developed, this easement really extends the pubic benefits afforded by the National Forest.”

To date, SAHC has managed to conserve nearly 70,000 acres, including farms, forests, watersheds, and great swaths of the Southern Appalachians, including areas in the Roan Highlands, Mt. Mitchell State Park, and the fringes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

There are many ways to directly experience the work of SAHC. Throughout the year, the organization offers guided hikes and outings to get people out on the beautiful properties SAHC protects. Some hikes focus around a specific topic—such as wildflowers or tree identification—while others might feature a spectacular view or waterfall.

Volunteers are the heart of SAHC. Adults and kids help with habitat management on Roan’s spectacular grassy bald, improve trails, remove trash from illegal dump sites, or host a table at a special event.

The Community Farm provides an exciting model for productive farming paired with environmental best practices, along with community resources, such as an educational center and guided Discovery Trail tours.

As a valued charitable organization, SAHC depends on the generous financial support of its members. To learn more about the organization and find out how you can contribute time or money, visit

William strongly believes in the work done by SAHC: “Particularly at this time when our current administration is actually working hard to dismantle the protection of many of our public lands and natural resources it is more important than ever to take personal responsibility for protecting these precious diminishing natural resources. Contributing to organizations like SAHC may be our best tool in preserving the earth for future generations.”

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