Cates, Land Trust to preserve Readyville farmland forever

DNJ, Sunday, October 14, 2012 — READYVILLE — The farmland making up the historically-significant Cates Farm will be forever protected for the enjoyment of future generations thanks to a conservation agreement announced this weekend.

Members of the Cates family celebrate the preservation of their farm. (SUBMITTED)
Members of the Cates family celebrate the preservation of their farm. (SUBMITTED)

Brothers Steve and Ben Cates announced Saturday they had entered a voluntary agreement with the statewide nonprofit land conservation organization, The Land Trust for Tennessee, meaning the 117 acres of rich bottom and floodplain along Cripple Creek Road will forever be preserved.

“My brother and I support the mission of The Land Trust,” said Steve Cates, co-owner of Cates Farm.“We are happy to see the original part of this farm where we grew up, and where our ancestors have lived for so many generations, preserved in its current state. We take special joy in seeing my brother’s grandsons, Bryan and Joseph Jakes, the eighth generation of our family to occupy this farm, and their parents, Shannon C. and Andy Jakes, enjoying it today.”

Jean C. Nelson, president and executive director of The Land Trust, said the entire community benefits when historic farmland like that of Cates Farm is protected.

“We are grateful to have the support of landowners such as Steve and Ben to personify the mission of The Land Trust and be such stewards of our land in Tennessee,” Nelson said.

Friends and family from as far away as New Jersey helped celebrate the announcement.

Mary Lee Donahue, a friend of Steve Cates, said she came all the way to Tennessee from the Garden State to join in the celebration.

“It is vital to keep not only our culture alive, but to preserve our land,” she said. “Where I live, land like this is extremely valuable for developers. Just look 20 miles up the road and you’ll see what has happened to what used to be areas like this around Nashville. That same thing is going to happen here in another 20 years.

Steve and Ben Cates are shown as children. SUBMITTED
Steve and Ben Cates are shown as children. SUBMITTED

“So people like Steve, Glen and The Land Trust, who go through the trouble, take the time and are willing to put what could have been windfall in selling the land into permanent preservation is a wonderful thing.”

The Cates farm project is The Land Trust’s second conservation easement signed in Rutherford County, following the historic Sanders Farm on Armstrong Valley Road.

A voluntary conservation agreement, also known as a conservation easement, is a contract between a landowner and a land trust, government agency, or another qualified organization in which the owner places permanent restrictions on the future uses of some or all of his property to protect scenic, wildlife or agricultural resources.

Conservation agreements are specifically tailored to meet important conservation purposes and the individual needs of the landowner.

The easement is donated by the owner to the land trust, which then has the authority and obligation to enforce the terms of the easement “in perpetuity.”

The landowner still owns the property and can use it, sell it or leave it to heirs, but the restrictions of the easement stay with the land forever.

Cates Farm is a historic property and designated Century Farm located just 13.5 miles from downtown Murfreesboro.

Recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities, the land has been in continuous agricultural use for over 150 years, including most recently a 76 year tenure by the Cates brothers’ late mother, Mary Dee Ready Cates.

The first member of the Cates family to own the property was Issac McGill, great-great-great-grandfather of the current owners, who purchased 118 acres for $400 on July 4, 1846.

In addition to its rich bottomland and floodplains, Cates Farm comprises almost 50 acres of hardwood and cedar forest as well as a section of Cripple Creek, an endangered aquatic habitat that feeds into the Stones River.

Also of note is the still-standing original Cates farmhouse, built in or before 1846 as a double-pen log cabin and still in use today after nearly two centuries.

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