Every Friday we will  feature one of our easement landowners. These stories are updates on profiles written by Frank McIntosh.  

Walter Sheffield’s uncle had a simple land ownership philosophy: “I only want to own what touches mine.” Not all of the family was quite that avid in their pursuit of land ownership, but from Walter’s grandfather’s first 70 acres purchased in 1888, they’ve been active landowners in Miller County, GA. Walter’s father’s purchased a farm adjacent to his Grandfather’s holdings in 1914, and Walter and his three siblings acquired land adjoining their father’s.

Walter Sheffield

Walter Sheffield

Earlier, much of the land was part of the Seminole nation. Andrew Jackson led an expedition to the area, and his troops notched trees along their route through the dense woods to guide them out. Many places in the area carry “three notch” in their names after Jackson’s navigation markers.

It would have been tough going with the dense cover of cedar and pines. The cedar were logged first, with the pine later harvested for ties for the rail line that forms part of the boundary of the 69-acre easement conveyed to the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. Grandfather Sheffield bought much of his land during this time, paying around two and a half dollars per acre.

After his father’s death, Walter purchased a sister and brother’s section of the family farmstead and even acquired the land that eventually became the conservation easement from his uncle. The easement protects rich soils and bottomlands that buffer Aycock’s Creek, part of the Flint River watershed, identified as a Georgia High Priority Waterway.

Like many who grew up in the area, Sheffield fondly relates experiences with hunting, bird dogs and some of the animals hunted.

Walter’s first shotgun was a reward for picking his first bale of cotton and he notes that “with lots of fence lines there were always quail. I don’t hunt any more, but I always had five bird dogs down on the property. The last one—a wonderful German short-haired pointer—died recently. He was the second best dog I ever owned.”

The first best? “Another pointer. We had split rail fencing on the property, and he would leap on top of those fences and hold a point. He was amazing.”

Live Oaks on the Sheffield Property

Live Oaks on the Sheffield Property

The property’s crown jewels for Walter remain his live oaks. Sadly, the trees have seen Grandfather Sheffield’s home burn—”six rooms with a separated cooking wing”—and saw the land that held the old house leave the family, about the only part of the family’s extended holdings to do so. If the trees live another couple of hundred years, they may never see that again.

Walter’s three children share his affection for the home place, and he reports that son John III’s first question when visiting from Denver is, “When are we going to the farm?” We hope the oaks will always have some Sheffields to shelter and echo Walter when he says of the oaks, “I hope they are there forever.”

 

Every Friday we will  feature one of our easement landowners. These stories are updates on profiles written by Frank McIntosh.  

Not every land trust has donors from Moscow, but Georgia-Alabama Land Trust affiliate, Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust, achieved that distinction in 2008. It’s just not the land of Vladimir Putin; this Moscow is in Idaho, where donor Dr. Maynard Fosberg is a Professor Emeritus of Soil Science at the University of Idaho.

Growing up in California, Dr. Fosberg probably didn’t envision himself marrying a Georgia Peach. However, while stationed in Thomasville, GA. in World War II, he met Margaret Williams and found himself married into the Peach State.

Maynard Fosberg

Maynard Fosberg

Margaret (who Maynard says is more Steel Magnolia than Georgia Peach) grew up on a Heard County farm that her parents, Newt and May Williams, purchased in 1910. The home she and her siblings were raised in and from which they worked the land in cotton and other cultivation alongside sharecroppers, still stands and is occupied by one of Margaret’s nieces. “Four generations of my family were raised here in Heard County, dating back to the early 1800s,” Margaret says. “All are buried at the Mt. Zion Church cemetery in Glenn, GA. This land is very important to the family legacy.”

When Dr. Fosberg discusses the land that comprises the old farm and the 121-acre conservation easement, the soil scientist comes forward and you get a sense of how difficult cultivating the farm must have been. “They’re typical sub-tropic soils—deeply weathered ultisols. They’re iron rich, which gives them their deep red color. It’s classic red clay. It’s highly erosive and the topsoil is gone. At this point we’re working the subsoil.”

The land now lends itself more to timber, and most of the property is in pine. Fosberg, who did graduate work in forestry at the University of Wisconsin, manages his own stands and feels very strongly about the right way to manage timber. In addition to timberlands, the property also has a Special Natural area along the property’s southern boundary that features streams and a whitewater creek.

Fosberg says he and six siblings (among them renowned botanist, F. Raymond Fosberg) “were taught as children by our mother about preserving the environment and are just naturally oriented toward the environment and conservation” and “always wanted to learn the names of everything.”

He adds, “Having property that preserves unique habitat and land is a special responsibility. I believe in preserving as much open land as possible—keeping some of it out of houses. What’s going to happen in a hundred years or a thousand? We need to protect land now. What happens when I’m gone? Our daughter, Stephanie, and son, Mark, want it to stay the same but what about after them?”

Dr. Fosberg reports that his daughter said the easement “is the best thing that ever happened,” so at least for another generation the Williams family legacy will have the guiding hand of the family, in addition to the protection of the conservation easement.

Dr. Fosberg’s dedication to land protection is not limited to Georgia. He also donated an easement on 25 acres in Moscow, Idaho. “It’s a little farm that preserves space for birds and other critters,” he says.

 

Duck Derby 2015 grew a crowd to Terrapin Creek last Saturday.  Duck adoptions were brisk and even a little rain did not dampen the spirits of the kids playing in the Modern Woodmen Financial Kidz Zone. The Land Trust raised around $1,700 in duck adoptions and t-shirt sales for the Terrapin Creek cleanup project plus another $4,000 was received from a grant from Wells Fargo. The money will be used to create a map of the creek and carry-in carry-out bags for garbage. It’s the whole idea about leaving nothing but footprints when you make memories in the great outdoors.

Crowd gathers for Duck Derby 2015

Crowd gathers for Duck Derby 2015

The end of the race was exciting with some ducks leading and then getting caught in the rocks, but the winner was duck #76 adopted by Landon Burrage and he wins the kayak.  Other prize winners included, Morgan Lavender, Wade Townsend, Sonya Owens, Ryan McRae, and Bill Fuqua.

Thanks again to all of our sponsors and prize donors. They include the following:

Wells Fargo Bank

Modern Woodmen Financial

Terrapin Outdoor Center

Redneck Yacht Club and Kayak Rental

Kids waiting on the Ducks to cross the finish line

Kids waiting on the Ducks to cross the finish line

Floating Fun.net

Piedmont Hardware

Solid Rock Cafe’

Friends of the Terrapin

Kidz Zone banner

Kidz Zone banner

 

Mini Kayak Races

Mini Kayak Races

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ducks near the finish line

Ducks near the finish line

Every Friday we will  feature one of our easement landowners. These stories are updates on profiles written by Frank McIntosh.  

Six generations of Stanleys have worked land in Georgia’s Toombs and Tattnall counties, and another generation is learning to love the land and how to work it.

The Stanley family has been living and farming in the Toombs County area longer than there has been a Toombs County and almost as long as Tattnall has been a county. The history of the Stanleys is their work on the land, including the 1,635-acre tract in Tattnall the family preserved in 2009 with a conservation easement held by the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust.

SIx generations: L-R, Bryan, Terry, Vince and R.T. Stanley

Six generations: L-R, Bryan, Terry, Vince and R.T. Stanley

“I started out sharecropping with my great uncle,” R.T. Stanley says. It was sharecropping that helped strengthen his determination to own land. “As I was growing up, I always wanted to buy land and own it. It’s in my blood. It’s always better to own it; you never know what will happen when you lease it.” The land in the conservation easement features around two miles of frontage on the Ohoopee River.

“The downturn in the economy was a two-edged sword. It hurt some people, but it helped make this tract available,” says R.T., whose sons Vince, Brian and Tracy joined him in donating the easement. “Buying this tract is the biggest transaction in my life; it’s a big step—a big chance to take.”

All the Stanleys agree that it was a chance worth taking. “It’s just so big and diverse,” Vince says. “There are a couple of hundred acres of longleaf and wiregrass, and we planted another 150 acres of longleaf. There’s a variety of hunting and fishing, and the land is good.”

Good indeed: 43 percent of the property is rated either prime soil or soil of statewide importance. Almost 300 acres are highly desirable for production of sweet Vidalia onions. In addition to growing the onions, the Stanleys now operate Vidalia Valley Farms, which produces Vidalia Valley Onion® products, including salad dressings, barbecue sauce and even a Vidalia Onion Slow Burn Peach Hot Sauce®.

When asked who created the recipes for the sauces, Vince reports that he liked combining his entrepreneurial and culinary abilities. Who created the recipes? Vince says simply, “I did.” His inspiration? “Well, I do like to make money. And they taste real good, too.”

Bottomland along the Ohoopee

Bottomland along the Ohoopee

The Stanleys’ conservation easement with the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust will ensure that the family will always have a place, not only to continue working the land, but also to gather the family in some of their favorite pursuits. Much of the property is used for hunting and abounds with deer, dove, and turkey. It also features man-made ponds that support healthy populations of bass and white perch.

Vince says, “Working with the Land Trust, we feel like we covered everything. We kept changing the easement around a good bit and got it where it was a win-win. We can continue using the land, mixing in food plots, timber and crops on a lot of the property, but there are over 140 acres of 100-year old bottomlands that will never be touched.”

And even more important to the sixth generation of Stanleys is what the conservation easement means to the seventh generation. “Now, we know our kids will grow up on this land. They love to go out on it with us.”

Vidalia Valley Farms

Stanley Farms

 

 

 

 

Every Friday we will  feature one of our easement landowners. These stories are updates on profiles written by Frank McIntosh.  

Phyllis Weaver’s 2009 conservation easement along Choccolocco Creek near Oxford, AL is an important part of achieving the ongoing Choccolocco Creek Conservation Corridor. It also helped her preserve her half-century relationship with her land.

Phyllis Weaver at the historic cemetery near her home

Phyllis Weaver at the historic cemetery near her home

Phyllis and her late husband Frank, bought their land along Choccolocco Creek near Oxford from Frank’s Uncle Elbert who owned the land “from here all the way across where Highway 21 runs and it wasn’t built yet. We purchased the first hundred acres for $50 an acre.”

Phyllis, a native of Illinois, met Frank when he was in dental school at Washington University in St. Louis. They returned to Frank’s home in the Oxford area, where his father was a doctor. Phyllis was Frank’s dental assistant and ran the office.

“Frank had the love of the land,” she says. “He would work the farm every day until noon, and then he would come in to do his dentistry from noon until five.”

“At one point we raised corn and wheat and had some pigs, on the theory they would clean up some of the aftermath of that cultivation. In the mid-50s, our county agent, Sut Matthews, said you ought to just make it pasture and now we use it primarily to raise cattle.”

Mrs. Weaver is happy she followed Sut’s recommendation, “It requires no fertilization, the cows and the manure spreader take care of that. It usually stays good and moist, although the creek doesn’t flood as bad as it used to. It grows a lot of clover, which helps keep nitrogen in. And we don’t get broom sedge.”

“The cows won’t cross the creek,” Phyllis says, “but they can smell an open gate. Just leave one open and off they go.” They have turned up at the nearby Wal-Mart parking lot on several occasions. “Fortunately, they remember where they came from and how they got out, so usually they’ll just go back they way they came with enough encouragement. I spend a lot of time riding fences.”

Pasture on the Weaver property

Pasture on the Weaver property

“I know the place will always be taken good care of. I’m planning on living forever but I have a farm manager who works with me, and will continue to keep an eye on things.”

Mrs. Weaver loves her livestock and pets. She is devoted to the 150-plus cattle she raises, which are now entirely black angus.

Phyllis says that a great many of her herd are almost like pets. She also has a small herds of pygmy goats, cats (including Sheba, who occupies a perch atop a small rug on the stove—“I have to ask her permission to cook”), and Miss Kitty, a hen who likes to brood in a planter by Phyllis’s front door. “She just picked out the spot and, of course, we don’t disturb her.” Miss Kitty purred when stroked by Mrs. Weaver.

“I’ve worked so hard on this place and loved it for so long, too. Frank and I first moved out here in 1950. I mixed the mud and Frank laid the block for our cabin out here. We hand-dug our swimming pool. It’s a shame we don’t always appreciate the beauty God gives us because we’re all so busy commercializing it.”

 

Fountain Family

Jack, Linda, Jacqueline, Katherine and Caroline Fountain with Amber

When Dr. Arthur “Jack” Fountain’s grandfather built his cabin on beautiful rolling land near Reynolds, GA. in 1904, his pride of place and sense of the value of craftsmanship led him to insist that all the lumber in the cabin be clean. There is not a knot to be found anywhere in the home, which is still impeccably preserved today. Two generations later, Jack and his wife Linda decided to protect the family home place, and they put the 817-acre property into a conservation easement with the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust.

As with most conservation easements, the Fountains retain ownership of their property. This allows them to continue to use the land as they and their family have in the past. The Fountains and future owners of the land can farm it, manage the timber on it, maintain and to some extent upgrade roads and other improvements to the property.

The conservation easement in Taylor and Macon counties protects the property from future residential and commercial development that would erode its core conservation values and the aspects of the land that the Fountains cherish and wish to see preserved in perpetuity.

The conservation easement ensures that the rich soils that comprise much of their land—more than 300 acres of the property are state or federally recognized productive soils—will remain in use and not join other “house farms” that have been appearing in this area. The easement  also protects the unique hardwood forests and natural areas along the banks of the streams on the property. These Special Natural Areas, running along two tributaries of the Flint River—Horse and Little Vine Creeks—help protect what has been called the most ecologically diverse river east of the Mississippi.

Sherpa Guides says the Flint River and areas adjacent provide habitat for many interesting and unusual plants and animals.” Of particular interest are some of the odd creatures known as troglobites that shelter in the river’s “Blue Holes,” including the blind cave salamander and the Dougherty Plain cave crayfish. Some of these creatures’ ranges are as small as a single cave or spring.

The Fountain home place

The Fountain home place

When asked why he decided to protect his land, Dr. Fountain cited his desire to preserve, “some of the southern self-sustaining farm life as I knew it. It is important for me to be able to pass some of this down to my children. Once the traces of this past era are gone, there is no return.”

The property contains visual beauty and other more sublime charms. When asked his favorite thing about his land, Dr. Fountain replied that autumn and spring there “are intoxicating,” reflecting on the “overwhelming aroma of all the new flowers” and autumn’s “marvelous smells in the woods with the crisp air and the rustle of wildlife.”

Feature Friday, from a story written by Frank McIntosh.

A friend of Dan Jeter’s in the forestry and pine straw business had been after him for a while to buy a farm. He had shown Dan a few “cutovers” that didn’t appeal, but then called and told Dan he “had to see this one.”

The tract was one of the seven parcels—a 147-tract in Colquitt County, GA. that particularly appealed to Dan. It was not too big for him to manage and had lots of bottomlands that he knew would be home to lots of “woodies” and other wildlife to hunt and just to enjoy.

Dan’s brother had put conservation easements in place in North Carolina and Southwest Georgia, so Dan was drawn to the idea of the benefits provided to donors as well as the idea of conservation.

Dan Jeter near site of an old bridge on easement property

Dan Jeter near site of an old bridge on easement property

“At some point you morph from financial to aesthetic preservation. When I signed the

conservation easement, I felt such a sense of happiness and accomplishment.” This emotion is seconded by Dan’s wife, Felicity, who expresses her feelings about land protection simply, “Why do we have to develop everything?” While the recent slump has slowed things a bit, Jeter notes that at one point not long ago there were seventeen different development projects before the local planning board.

Jeter also reports that “one of the pluses” in dealing with a land trust on a conservation easement is the care that is taken to ensure that valuable productive lands remain in production, but that the use of the land ensures that the special natural areas are not damaged by those uses and that extra protection is provided.

The Jeter conservation easement allows silvicultural and agricultural use on its uplands. Part of that land, 32 acres, is now in a longleaf restoration project that features locally grown longleaf saplings. The expansive bottomlands comprising much of the property are designated a Special Natural Area  and  will be preserved in their current condition except for incidental removal of invasive species and diseased vegetation.

The sloughs running down to Bridge Creek (so named for the old tramway trestle that crossed the creek, parts of which remain in the creek today) abound with mature hickories and white oaks. Jeter noted that the creek is good fishing, too—he allows neighbors onto the property to fish for red breast and bream.

Jeter, who mentors school children through the local Communities in Schools program, feels strongly about the role of education in shaping lives. He hopes that the property will provide an opportunity for his children and grandchildren to connect with “the way the land was for us and our forebears.”

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