Farmland


The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust received a $123,950 grant from the Coca-Cola Company Foundation to support watershed protection in Georgia’s Chattahoochee River Basin and Alabama’s Cahaba, Black Warrior and Tom Bigbee River Basins.

“The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is working to save water through land preservation throughout the South,” said Katherine Eddins, executive director of the Land Trust. “Funding from the grant will help us and our affiliate in Columbus, Georgia, the Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust, protect land from development in watersheds serving Columbus and Birmingham & Montgomery, Alabama.”

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Protected lands under a conservation easement recharge groundwater and streams that provide water for nature and communities.  A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a land owner and a land trust that permanently limits the development of the land. Easements protect significant wildlife habitat by preserving open space, including natural areas, farm and forest land.

Development on these now protected lands would have caused increased runoff and the loss of drinkable water. By preserving these 4,338 acres of open space, the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is ensuring that over 3 billion liters of water will be available for lakes, streams and faucets.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, was founded in 1994 by conservation-minded individuals in response to rapid development and encroachment of natural areas, farms and woodlands. We are now the largest private lands conservation organization in the Southeast, protecting over 268,000 acres of land with 775 voluntary conservation easements.

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The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust received a $123,950 grant from the Coca-Cola Company Foundation to support watershed protection in Georgia’s Chattahoochee River Basin and Alabama’s Cahaba, Black Warrior and Tom Bigbee River Basins.

“The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is working to save water through land preservation throughout the South,” said Katherine Eddins, executive director of the Land Trust. “Funding from the grant will help us and our affiliate in Columbus, Georgia, the Chattahoochee Valley Land Trust, protect land from development in watersheds serving Columbus and Birmingham & Montgomery, Alabama.”

Job Opening

Protected lands under a conservation easement recharge groundwater and streams that provide water for nature and communities.  A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement between a land owner and a land trust that permanently limits the development of the land. Easements protect significant wildlife habitat by preserving open space, including natural areas, farm and forest land.

Development on these now protected lands would have caused increased runoff and the loss of drinkable water. By preserving these 4,338 acres of open space, the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust is ensuring that over 3 billion liters of water will be available for lakes, streams and faucets.

The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, was founded in 1994 by conservation-minded individuals in response to rapid development and encroachment of natural areas, farms and woodlands. We are now the largest private lands conservation organization in the Southeast, protecting over 268,000 acres of land with 775 voluntary conservation easements.

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

When you own “the prettiest little mountain farm you ever saw,” and your work—raising pure-bred Salers Cattle— is the passion of your life, you start to think about how to protect a place.

Jo Colmore’s Walker County, GA. tract is one of the largest unbroken tracts in an area of increasing fragmentation of property. Located on top of Lookout Mountain, the land is “just full of hemlocks” and, according to Colmore, is the perfect spot for a home site and to raise his “momma cows.”

Jo Colmore with some of his Saler's Cattle

Jo Colmore with some of his Saler’s Cattle

Colmore has owned the property since 1967, when he and his brother got “a hankering to own some land.” After running a summer camp until 1983, Colmore turned to cattle breeding full-time. The calves he raises are sold to other cattle businesses for breeding purposes.

While his place is usually a portrait of tranquility, the mothers were weaning calves at the time of this interview. Colmore says it gets a little hectic during weaning but that “everyone calms down in a week or so.”

Like many donors, Colmore didn’t just leap into his conservation easement. He took his time, but came to the decision after taking in the miles of darkness untouched by electric lights. He realized it was time to “join this thing” and placed 115 acres of his property, including sensitive areas along Bear Creek, into a conservation easement.

Woodlands on the 115 acre easement

Woodlands on the 115 acre easement

Colmore enjoys sitting on his porch at night looking out at the pristine woodlands of his property and the nearby Cloudland Canyon State Park.

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.”

 

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:

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.”

 

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