Protecting a Sense of Place
110 Acres Protected at Speer Farm in Boonville
Written by Brianna Haferman, PLC Communications & Engagement Director
The 110-acre Speer Farm in Booneville (Yadkin County) is now forever protected by a conservation agreement through Piedmont Land Conservancy. That means that unlike much of the other land along Highway 601 between Yadkinville and Boonville which is seeing rapid development, the Speer farm will retain its scenic, rural character and be available for farming forever.
Frieda Hinshaw Speer and her husband Allen Paul Speer, Jr. had deep roots in Yadkin County going back centuries. Her love for her community and her family history motivated her to donate a conservation agreement on her family’s farm through her estate plans. Because of her careful planning, when Frieda passed away in her sleep at 96 years of age, the future of her farmland was secure.
Her children, Dr. Allen Paul Speer III and Sandra Speer Bryant, were both involved in the planning and fully supportive of Frieda’s decision to protect the family’s farm through a conservation agreement. “I don’t think any of us wanted condos, subdivisions or distribution centers. That was a primary concern,” shared Dr. Allen Speer.
As rural North Carolina continues to transform, losing touch with a traditional way of life is a concern for many in farming communities. For the Speer family, who have lived on this farm since 1780, love for rural ways of life in Yadkin County runs deep. Allen, a historian, author, and professor emeritus of humanities at Lees-McRae College, has written four books which use his family’s narrative to recount events in the Yadkin Valley during the mid- to late-1800s.
“My fourth great-grandmother is buried there,” shared Dr. Allen Speer, pointing to the small cemetery on the farm, “She was a teenager at the time of the American revolution.”
The land has seen changes as agriculture has evolved over the centuries. Back in the 1800s the land was a plug tobacco farm. Now, it’s all forest and pasture land for cattle. Allen remembers walking the fields and to sow the pasture grass with his father in the early 1970s.
I chatted with Allen for a bit outside his tiny house on the farm. Inside, the walls are hung with photos of ancestors and family crests. To Allen and his sister Sandy, protecting this land means both protecting home and historical memory.
“The people that lived here show the people who are alive now how to endure.” shared Allen.
The farm will eventually pass to Sandy and Barry Bryant’s two sons, who spent much of their childhood on the farm.
“I know that it would make my father so happy to know that the land he loved so much will always be a farm. Even if the land eventually passes out of the family, the conservation agreement will protect it, and that is a great feeling,” said Sandy Bryant.
The Importance of Protecting Farmland
Keeping this piece of land as farmland will help Boonville retain its historic and rural character. Open sunny areas with water and pastures or cultivated crops are a habitat that farmers maintain for their own use, but they are also a visual asset to the neighborhood. Additionally, wildlife make use of the land as well. Many kinds of wildlife call farms and their fringes home.
Piedmont Land Conservancy protects land in four primary themes: Clean water, significant natural areas, trails and preserves, and farmland.
Food security, or reliable access to a sufficient quantity of food, is not possible without farming communities. With the pressure of development reaching most of our farmland, we need to be sure that we have local lands dedicated to feeding our community.
Conservation agreements can serve as a protective barrier and can offer a range of benefits to farmers, including financial incentives, preservation of agricultural heritage, stewardship of natural resources, long-term planning, and community support.
We are grateful to Frieda Speer for recognizing the value of her farm for conservation and for taking the steps to protect the land in her will. If you’d like to learn more about how to protect land in your estate plans, Karrie Jo Manson, our Development Director, would be happy to chat with you about your options. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, to call our office at (336) 691-0088 and ask for Karrie Jo.
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