By RUSTY DENNEN
Caroline County farmer Emmett Snead III has long used conservation practices on Snead’s Farm along a stretch of U.S. 17 east of Fredericksburg.
Now Snead and his wife, Ellen, are protecting the land itself, with a conservation easement on 293 acres in a deal announced this week.
The easement was purchased by Fort A.P. Hill, with funding provided by the Department of Defense Army Compatible Use Buffer program. The Conservation Fund and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation provided technical assistance. The easement will be held by VOF.
The Sneads still own the property, but most types of development would not be allowed, in perpetuity. Another 16 acres and a house site on the farm were not part of the easement. Snead says the aim is to keep the property in its highest and best use, namely, farming.
“I think it’s actually a farm that, after I’m gone, someone else could step into it and make a living,” Snead said. “If they had to pay full value of the property years from now, they probably couldn’t afford to farm it.”
Snead’s Farm has been a fixture along U.S. 17, with pick-your-own fruit and vegetables. More recently the farm has been part of a community supported agriculture operation, in which customers purchase shares to pick up bags of produce, eggs and other items through much of the year.
“This effort is a great example of modern conservation,” Reggie Hall, Virginia director for The Conservation Fund, said in a press release.
“We’re not only protecting wildlife habitat and a popular agritourism business, but we are also helping to ensure that our country’s military warriors will have a place to train as they prepare to defend our nation and fight for freedom.”
Hall said the agreement benefits the military, the environment and the community.
For years, Fort A.P. Hill has been working to discourage development in the vicinity of the 76,000 acre Army base in Caroline. Too many neighbors in close proximity can affect how and where troops train. The Army Compatible Use Buffer program purchases land and easements in key areas toward that end.
Lt. Col. John Haefner, commander of Fort A.P. Hill, said the program helps the base continue its training mission.
“Protecting America’s investment in military readiness by ensuring we can train as we must fight is at the heart of our effort,” Haefner said. Over 90,000 troops have trained at the fort annually over the past few years. “We are grateful for neighboring landowners who support our combat-training mission, and are willing to work with us and our conservation partners …” As of September, the base had preserved nearly 9,000 acres under the program.