Keeping it Green with The Land Trust for Tennessee
THE LAND TRUST FOR TENNESSEE IS CONSERVING FARMLAND AND NATURAL HABITATS TO KEEP TENNESSEE GREEN, ONE ACRE AT A TIME.
On Google Maps, Adelicia Park is just a tiny patch of bright green, a little rectangle surrounded by the dull grays of Music City’s streets. In real life, however, that little rectangle is a vibrant oasis, a place where trees still breathe, flowers still bloom, and raindrops still soak into soil rather than puddle on impermeable parking lots. This urban endeavor of conserving green space is but one small example of The Land Trust for Tennessee’s big mission: balance our state’s phenomenal growth with equally phenomenal environmental stewardship.
The Land Trust for Tennessee began in 1999 when a group of concerned citizens – call them volunteers – founded the non-profit organization to conserve farmers’ lands and critters’ habitats, historic landscapes and scenic trails. Today, The Land Trust for Tennessee employs a staff of about twenty and a variety of means to conserve open space, protecting the land and the waters that feed and replenish us all. One important tool is a conservation easement. This allows for a person to continue owning the land while placing limits on its development. It’s a classic win-win, tailored to meet both the conservation needs we share in common as well as the financial and tax planning needs of each landowner in particular.
To date, over 120,000 acres have been conserved by The Land Trust, including 44,000 acres of precious farmland, the vast majority of which is in our own neck of the woods – Middle Tennessee. With over 40% of Tennessee’s surface area comprised of farmland, preserving this resource supports a major industry for our state while supporting regional food security and fostering relationships between farmers and the folks they feed, i.e. us! That’s more important than ever considering that, between 2007 and 2012, Tennessee lost 3,000 family farms totaling over 600,000 acres of land.
One farm no longer in danger of unbridled development belongs to Judith and Jonathan Smith, owners of Happily Ever After Farm, a beef, chicken and egg producing enterprise in Joelton. The Smiths closed on a conservation easement with The Land Trust in December 2015. “We pretty much knew that we were going to do it,” says Judith, “but it was a matter of timing and working through the details.” A big motivator was simply the natural beauty of the land. “We’d say to one another, 'how can we preserve this land and keep it a working farm?' It was an important thing to us.”
Happily Ever After Farm operates as a natural grower, and the land is thriving as its ecological balance returns. Under the conservation easement, the farm is prohibited from having high density feeding operations or any mining, but this does not feel restrictive to Judith and Jonathan. Under their stewardship, rotational grazing has revitalized pastures, providing a healthy blend of grasses, soil and water. With the Smith’s personal choice not to use pesticides and herbicides, dragonflies and hummingbirds have come back. “We celebrated the arrival of dung beetles!” laughs Judith. “It’s just beautiful! We live in a community that is the last, not-so-developed part of Nashville.”
The Land Trust for Tennessee recognizes the importance of lands with high conservation value that are also faced with high development pressure. “It is ideal when many important conservation priorities overlap,” comments Emily Parish, The Land Trust’s Vice President of Conservation. “We know that if we don’t conserve our valuable places, we will never get them back. They’re all part of the fabric of our state.”
Nashville’s own Berdelle Campbell would agree. In 1981, she and her late husband, Professor Ernest Campbell of Vanderbilt, moved from Belle Meade into a 100-year-old house in Germantown. There, almost immediately, Ernest and Berdelle began cultivating a garden on a quarter-acre lot they bought next door, mindfully tending it for the next thirty years. Ernest passed away four years ago, but would be thrilled that the garden is being preserved. Berdelle has seen to that. She granted a conservation easement on the property after reading an article on The Land Trust in the newspaper. Today it is full of vegetables, fruit trees, flowers and native plants.
Farms with conservation easements with The Land Trust for Tennessee
Arugula’s Star Farm
Lehew Farm (Noble Springs Dairy)
Windy Acres Farm
River Ridge Farms
Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms
Data shows that Tennessee loses tens of thousands of acres of family farms and open spaces every year.
—The Land Trust for Tennessee
Conserving Tennessee’s natural landscapes gives peace of mind that we will we have the places we need to farm, as well as enjoy and explore for generations to come. These farms, forests and open spaces contribute to Tennessee’s unique sense of place,”
—Liz McLaurin, President and CEO of The Land Trust for Tennessee.