Historic Sanders Farm Saved by Trust

From The Murfreesboro Post, Sunday, December 6, 2009

The farmhouse on the Sanders Farm dates to 1869.
The farmhouse on the Sanders Farm dates to 1869.

The Land Trust for Tennessee announced that landowner Patricia ‘Pat’ Sanders has conserved 331 acres of farmland through a permanent conservation agreement with the statewide nonprofit land conservation organization.

The farm, located on Armstrong Valley Road, is a Tennessee Century Farm and on the National Register of Historic Places. Pat and her late husband, Robert ‘Bob’ Smith Sanders, moved to the farm in 1963 and raised their two children in the 1869 farmhouse, built by Bob’s maternal grandparents, that still stands today.

The land was part of a Revolutionary War grant given to Bob’s great-great-great grandfather Major Robert Smith of Belvoir, VA. The farm remains in active agriculture today with much of the open land leased to local farmers.

Trained as a pediatrician, Bob Sanders was director of the Rutherford County Health Department from 1969 to 1991. In 1975, he began a campaign for child restraints in automobiles which resulted in Tennessee’s becoming the first state in the nation to enact a Child Passenger Protection Law. Known as “Dr. Seatbelt” for his pioneering efforts, Dr. Sanders died in 2006.

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 her 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.

“The conservation of this farm is a wonderful contribution by the visionary Sanders family to the future of the community and its rural roots and character, not to mention the future of farming,” said Jean C. Nelson, president and executive director of The Land Trust. “We are grateful to have the support of landowners, such as Pat Sanders, to personify the mission of The Land Trust and be such stewards of our land in Tennessee.”

Although The Land Trust has protected land throughout Middle Tennessee, this conservation agreement on the Sanders Farm is the first for Rutherford County. The Land Trust is hopeful that Pat’s actions will influence other landowners in Rutherford County to consider this option.

“I have lived 46 years on this Tennessee Century Farm and I feel dedicated to keep it agricultural and preserved. The heritage and the legacy are important to me and were to my husband,” said Pat Sanders. “I would not want a subdivision or a strip mall here. We have enough urban sprawl as it is. Water, creeks, farmland and scenery need to be treasured as well. The Land Trust for Tennessee is the answer. If no other Rutherford County landowners join in, I feel like this farm will likely become a “Central Park” because Rutherford County is now ranked as the 12th fastest growing county in the nation.”

The Land Trust for Tennessee is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, founded in 1999. Its mission is to preserve the unique character of Tennessee’s natural and historic landscapes for future generations.
To date, The Land Trust for Tennessee has protected more than 43,000 acres of land and is working with numerous other landowners across the state.

The Land Trust works with willing landowners to find ways to preserve forever the historic, scenic and natural values of their land. The Land Trust has offices in Nashville, Sewanee and Chattanooga.

More information is available at www.landtrusttn.org.

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