“This beautiful and agricultural open land was here before we purchased Waverley and it’s my hopeful intention that it will look the same as it does today long after I’m gone,” remarked Charlotte Tieken, Somerset resident and owner of Waverley Farm.
The Piedmont Environmental Council worked with Ms. Tieken to put 669 acres of her property under conservation easement at the close of 2017.
Down the road from James Madison’s Montpelier, the farm is located within the Madison-Barbour Rural Historic District and has over a mile of frontage on Constitution Highway. The district, known to have well-drained soils, rolling terrain and a mix of agricultural and forest land, now has a total of 14,645 acres conserved.
“As a cyclist, I enjoy the spectacular views that stretch all the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains when I ride by Waverley. I’m grateful to Ms. Tieken for her generous act of conservation, and it was a pleasure to work with her,” said Peter Hujik, field representative for PEC.
The portion of Constitution Highway that runs along Ms. Tieken’s property is part of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway, a 180-mile long route that stretches from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Monticello in Virginia.
The easement was the largest one on record in Orange County last year, as well as the largest in PEC’s nine-county service region; and it protects approximately 419 acres of prime or significant farm soils.
“It was my husband’s wish to conserve the farm; and after his passing, I didn’t want to wait any longer,” said Ms. Tieken. “It was our hope years ago that we could do this collectively with neighbors to keep this area looking as it does now in perpetuity.”
Before moving to Somerset over three decades ago, Ms. Tieken and her husband lived in Illinois, where they became familiar with land conservation efforts.
“My husband’s family farmed throughout the midwest. While living in Chicago, his family spent weekends on their farm thirty miles northwest of the city, which they bought around the 1950’s. There were six different families in that area who owned adjoining land,” said Ms. Tieken. “And never did they think that suburbia would crawl out that far. However, by 1980 large tracts were in the process of being developed and farmland was disappearing.
“These six neighbors, independently, but with a common vision put their farms under easement. What that land looks like today is a ‘large green preserve’ because every inch of land surrounding those conserved properties is new towns and housing developments. So, I have seen firsthand what sprawl can do and how quickly this can happen. Why should we sacrifice something that is so regionally unique here in Somerset? I’m reminded of the old adage, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.’”
Ms. Tieken is not alone in Orange County when it comes to conserving land, as she explained, “Bill and Sandra Speiden, our immediate neighbors, were the first to put their farm under easement. I feel fortunate to live in Somerset, and I feel equally fortunate to be amongst my neighbors who feel this mutual commitment towards conservation.”
Rivandale Farm, another nearby property, is owned by Mark Warren, who purchased his land with a portion of it already under easement; and he later conserved additional acreage.
“This is something I feel strongly about. The only way we’re really going to protect the Piedmont is through these open space easements,” said Warren. As of 2017, a total of 35,961 acres in Orange County have been protected by landowners working together with land trusts and public agencies. “I’ve heard the same old story too many times, ‘We’re too far away, sprawl will never happen here.’ Well, 30 years ago, there were very few stop lights between Waverley and Charlottesville,” said Tieken. “If you believe in the preservation of open land as a force for the collective wellbeing of our culture for future generations, and if you believe in good stewardship, then I feel conservation is the right thing to do.”