Mark and Laura Rogers worked with Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to protect 236 more acres of beautiful farmland in the Crabtree community of Haywood County. These agricultural conservation easements join land that they and other members of the Rogers family worked with SAHC to conserve in 2017 – bringing the total of protected farmland in Rogers Cove to 620 acres! In addition to protecting productive agricultural land for future generations, farmland preservation in the cove protects scenic views from Crabtree Bald and Crabtree Mountain Road.
Farmland conservation projects can take many years to come to fruition. Mark and Laura had planned for this property to be permanently protected when they began working on conservation efforts with SAHC and other family members several years ago.
“Conservation of this land and the previous project were intertwined; they were really planned together from the beginning,” says Laura. Researching conservation options 15 years, Mark contacted SAHC in 2006 and embarked on an ambitious effort to secure farmland which had been in the Rogers family for generations and prevent future loss to subdivision and development.
Mark and Laura purchased the recently protected acreage from Mark’s uncle Russell Rogers in 2010; this land and adjoining farmland owned by Mark’s father Edwin Rogers had once all been part of Mark’s grandparents’ farm. Mark and Laura moved into the historic 1890 home on the property and began restoring it. They both worked full time jobs in addition to farming.
“Early on my dad and uncle traded work on their adjoining farms which together had been my grandparents’ farm,” recalls Mark. “As a result, I associated the farms as just one. As I got older my uncle retired and started leasing his farm out to a local cattleman. This made me sharply aware that the farm could slip out the Rogers family after five generations. The thought of a developer getting hold of it troubled me for many reasons including the need for conservation of farmland and sentimental reasons. Laura listened to my dream of putting my grandfather’s farm back together and supported it. Eventually participating in a conservation easement eased the financial burden of doing so. It goes without saying that conserving land that feeds us will only become more important going forward.”
Laura also recognizes the importance and timeliness of conserving farmland. “If you look at what’s happening – with fewer farmers and farmland decreasing – it’s frightening,” she says. “We know that larger tracts are disappearing, so preserving those that remain is important. It reminds me of public park land – we really treasure our national parks, but if those large tracts hadn’t been saved for national parks, we wouldn’t have them now to enjoy.”
A retired high school foreign language teacher, Laura recalls long days in teaching followed by extracurricular activities, fixing up the historic home, and farm work. “I’ve always enjoyed having young people come to the farm,” she says, “I enjoy seeing how they light up in these learning experiences, when they come here and see spring houses and get close to large animals. As we get older, I really think of this as a sanctuary – the wildflowers, the fauna, the water resources, the way the springs bubble up… and Crabtree Bald is a focal point that just really caps it off. The older I get, the more I realize how special this place really is – that’s definitely something that comes with maturity as you look back over life.”
“We’re really lucky that this worked out,” Laura adds, “that we were able to buy the land and that generous donors and grant funders understood conserving the farm is a worthwhile project.”
This farmland conservation project was made possible with funding from the NC Agriculture Development and Farmland Preservation Trust, Brad and Shelli Stanback, the Pigeon River Fund at The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, and SAHC members, and the landowners donated a significant portion of the value of the conservation easement. We are extremely grateful to all the folks who helped make this important conservation work possible – thank you!