Bev McKay's family has been farming the land that he just protected in Clarke County for over 200 years. Mr. McKay raises dairy cattle on the property, as well as crops, such as corn and barley, to feed the cows.
The land is good for farming, with gently rolling fields and rich loam soils. Because of its value as productive farmland, the USDA and PEC worked together to purchase an easement on 103 acres, over half of which are prime agricultural soils.
PEC's Clarke County Land Conservation Fund -- one of ten funds associated with PEC that support land conservation in specific places -- leveraged the federal funds to make this project possible. Mr. McKay also donated a portion of the easement. PEC will hold the easement, taking responsibility to uphold these protections over time.
The McKays' farm is located within the Greenway Rural Historic District, directly across from the Long Branch Historic House and Farm -- an 1811 mansion that is listed on the National Historic Landmarks Register. In this historic district, over 8,700 acres of land are currently protected -- 44% of the land in the district. In Clarke County overall, more than 20,000 acres are protected -- 17.5% of the total land. The McKays' farm also fronts on Red Gate Road, a Scenic Byway.
In a phone interview while he was in his tractor, planting corn, Mr. McKay said, "I wanted to protect the land because it's been in my family a long time. And I feel strongly that easements are a good thing. They're good for large landowners. They're good for small landowners. And they're good for people who just live here. I'm very happy about what Clarke County has become, because of what people have done to protect the land. That makes this a very desirable place."
Land conservation is good for the environment and it's also good for local budgets, Mr. McKay said. It keeps land in tax positive uses, like farming. It also helps localities to obtain more state funding for schools, he pointed out, because land under easement is counted at its land use value when the state calculates local ability to pay.
He said, "It makes me feel good to know that in the future, if the land is sold, there won't be condos going up on it. It'll be cows, not condos."