Preserving the land

The Wilson family will be able to keep working its 870 acres of farmland for years to come. And, thanks to a deal with the Nation Ford and Katawba Valley land trusts, they will never have to resort to selling the land to developers eager to chop it into lots and build on it.

Jeff Wilson has been working on his Lowrys-area Cotton Hills Farm, which spans York and Chester counties, for nearly all his 59 years. His son Jeb has decided to follow in his dad's footsteps.

Ordinarily, the Wilsons would have to worry about continuing to make a living from the farm while fending off the developers. But by turning the property over to the land trusts, they ensure that the farm, one of the last working farms of significant size in the area, will never change.

Arrangements like this work to the advantage of property owners and the public. The Wilsons will receive a generous tax break in return for handing over the deed to the land.

The family will be able to continue to plant cotton, wheat, corn, peaches, pumpkins, strawberries, watermelons and most vegetables. They also operate a produce stand where the property fronts on U.S. 321, and they ship stone-ground grits to New York City.

At the same time, by helping to maintain the economic viability of the farm, the deal with the land trusts also ensures that the land will remain green and undeveloped, a sizable chunk of farmland in the middle of a fast-growing part of the state.

In making the choice to work with the two land trusts, the Wilsons decided that preserving their land and their way of life was worth more than a big check. Selling the land to a developer could have netted them upwards of $8 million.

We are grateful that their sense of values led them to keep the farm going and keep the land in one piece. That land will be a legacy to future generations.

We hope the Wilsons have a good harvest and that they sell a lot of grits to those city folks up north.

Family chooses to keep farmland intact rather than break it up and sell it to developers.