The Grass Is Always Greener and the Smell of Money
By Vicky Moon
In the countryside around Middleburg, the grass has always been greener. It stretches for miles and is tended with meticulous constant care. At five o’clock, as one relaxes overlooking the paddocks with a beverage of choice in hand, a faint smell of money floats in the spring air.
That smell is cattle and horse manure, and it doesn’t come cheap.
Missy Janes, of Middleburg and Washington, is a photographer, gardener and devoted conservationist. She wrote a handbook for landowners on stewarding the land responsibly. “Manure management is a critical element of healthy animals and good water quality,” she noted, then detailed how to spread it on the fields. Several local horse businesses, including the Upperville Horse Show, Warrenton Horse Show and Chuck Kuhn’s Middleburg Training Center, recycle piles of the stuff to farmers.
Landowners are doing their part of conservation and have adopted the ultimate formula by placing their farms and properties in easement. The non-profit (501-c-3) Land Trust of Virginia (LTV) began a program thirty years ago for property owners to protect their estates and farms “with significant scenic, historic, and ecological value for the benefit of our community using conservation easements.”
In addition to the satisfaction of protecting open space, landowners receive tax incentives that include: state and federal income tax deductions, credits from the Virginia Conservation Tax Credit Program and lower property taxes. Following the execution of legal documents, the land is forever protected from development. Other organizations also work to protect the land, like the Piedmont Environment Council and the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. However, the LTV holds 193 easements, more than any other private land trust in the state, with 21,480 acres of agriculture, forests, battlefields, mountains and wetlands. Successful LTV easements include the Washington Post/Graham family’s Glen Welby near Marshall and tech entrepreneur/philanthropist Sandy Lerner at Ayrshire Farm in Upperville.
And then there’s Heronwood Farm in Upperville, built by the late Crystal City developer Robert Smith. His wife, Clarice Smith, retains part of the farm and a separate 501 acres which are now for sale.
The horse facilities alone include 28 paddocks on 200 acres and two large barns and other outbuildings designed by Blackburn Architects in Washington. Key elements include continual ridge skylights and vertical ventilation that add to the custom timber oak framing, local fieldstone and stucco.
In addition to the circa 1905 Grafton Hall, a classic Revival Style manor house, there’s plenty more green on the property. That would be the lush fairways, thick grass rough and slick putting surfaces of a private, 6,500-yard, 18-hole golf course designed by highly-regarded golf architect Brian Aunt to U.S. Golf Association standards.
All of which is perfectly sited to enjoy the serenity of the Blue Ridge Mountain to the west. It’s listed for $24.5 million. Talk about the smell of money.