Farm on Rappahannock River put into easement

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One of the largest waterfront farms along the Rappahannock River has been permanently protected from development.

Landowner Minnie K. Burch, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provided funding to put the farm into conservation easement.

“The 640-acre tract will protect more than seven miles of shoreline on the Rappahannock River from future development,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement. “This easement is part of our efforts to protect more open space, as well as working farms and forests.”

Burch grew up on the farm with her four siblings and was looking for a way to protect it from future development.

The easement prevents the land from being divided and puts limits on the number of buildings and structures on the property. In addition, Burch will follow a conservation plan through specific farming practices such as no-till farming, which minimizes disruption and erosion to soil.

“Large waterfront farms are in high demand for residential development throughout the tidal Chesapeake Bay region,” Virginia Outdoors Foundation Executive Director Bob Lee said in a statement. “The vast scenic shoreline and easy access location of Weeks Farm made it ripe for development.”

The VOF worked with NRCS to enroll the land in the federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), which provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. To purchase the development rights and put a conservation easement on the land, NRCS provided 47 percent of the funding, VOF provided 16 percent and Burch was responsible for the remaining 37 percent. She will receive state and federal tax benefits from the easement.

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