Want a farm? Brush up on your essay skills.
Norma Burns is the owner and operator of Bluebird Hill Farm in Bennett, a small town in Chatham County a little more than an hour west of Raleigh. The farm is 12.88 acres and is USDA-certified organic. And Burns wants to give it away to whoever wins her essay contest.
The topic for the 200-word essay is “Why we want to own and operate Bluebird Hill Farm” and the deadline is June 1. There’s a $300 entry fee. At first there was an age requirement of 25-50 years old, but Burns later removed the requirement and said experience and capability are the most important criteria.
“To me, there's no better calling in life than raising organic food,” said Burns, an award-winning architect-turned-farmer. “I’m looking for a like-minded couple who have experience and training in organic farming and are willing and able to put in the long days and hard work that farming requires. The only thing they don't have is an actual farm. I want to make it possible for these new farmers to get started.”
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Burns has run Bluebird for 18 years – growing herbs, specialty vegetables, cut flowers, native plants, farm crafts and food products. But now she’s ready to move on.
Burns wants to come back to Raleigh and a more urban lifestyle. But she wants to leave her farm in good hands, a “committed couple of any description with the life experience and physical stamina that active farming requires.” And the “couple” part is key, she said, since “experience has shown that Bluebird Hill Farm can’t be operated successfully by a single individual.”
The winning couple will get the title to the farm, worth about $450,000, Burns said. The property is subject to an agricultural conservation easement. The winner receives the whole farm – the land, house, gardens, outbuildings and some equipment and furnishings.
“All of it is going to the winner of the essay contest,” Burns said.
Calling her essay contest “A Gift of Good Land,” in homage to American novelist, poet, and environmental activist Wendell Berry, Burns has set up a website dedicated to the contest – www.bluebirdhillfarmessaycontest.com – that explains all the details about the prize, including the eligibility requirements, entry fee and how to enter.
But Burns won’t be the one judging the contest. A panel of judges, including an attorney, a conservationist and an agriculture professional will choose the winners.
For more information on Bluebird Hill Farm, go to the farm’s Facebook page. The winners will be announced on the Facebook page June 30.
“When my late husband (North Carolina State University Professor Bob Burns) and I purchased the farm, it was a derelict property,” Burns said, “A barn without a roof, a neglected house and abandoned gardens. After nearly 18 years of work, love, and care, the farm has become what we envisioned it to be. It would mean so much to me to see it in the care of someone committed to its continued improvement.”
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett