Jefferson County Celebrates Conservation of Gap View Farm
May 30, 2018
Jefferson County recently celebrated the conservation of Gap View Farm, one of the county's few remaining pre-revolutionary farms. The 318-acre property is the largest to be accepted into the county's farmland protection program.
Gap View Farm, near Charles Town, West Virginia, is a historic farm property established in 1774. The property gets its name from its view of the gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains made by the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry. In 1954, the late Frank W. Buckles and his wife Audrey purchased the farm, and in 1997, they placed the entire property and its 18th-century house on the National Register of Historic Places.
Susannah Mayo Buckles, daughter of Frank and Audrey Buckles, now runs the day-to-day operations of Gap View Farm and has made the farm more eco-friendly. Local agencies and volunteers have helped to plant trees and shrubs on the farm, and 15,000 feet of fencing has been installed as part of the land retirement program called the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. The fencing separates the farm's conservation areas from the farm's herd of White Park cattle.
Inspired by her father's commitment to careful stewardship of the land, Susannah Buckles placed a conservation easement on Gap View Farm in September 2017 through the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Board and Buckles celebrated in May 2018 with an open house featuring tours of the farm, an exhibit of paintings of the farm, and presentations about landscaping with native plants and farmland protection.
Jefferson County's farmland protection program is governed by a board of directors that was created as a result of a state law passed in 2000. The law allows West Virginia counties to levy a transfer tax on real estate to purchase development rights from landowners who wish to protect their land for agricultural purposes. The conservation easement lets property owners permanently protect the agricultural, natural, scenic, and historic values of their land from being developed. With the easement, land owners retain full use and ownership of the land, and the easement is transferred with the property if it is sold.
Since 2002, the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board has helped 41 landowners protect more than 4,200 acres of agricultural land in Jefferson County. Currently, the Board is assisting another five farmers complete conservation easements on 1,160 acres of working farmland.