Those who think their essay skills are good enough to win them a farm now have a second chance.
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 USDA-certified organic. And Burns wants to give it away to whoever wins her essay contest.
The original deadline for the contest was June 1, but Burns hasn’t received the number of applications she was hoping for yet, and she is extending the deadline 60 days. In a Facebook post, Burns says the exact dates for mailing and receipt of the entries will be posted on the farm’s Facebook page and the contest website.
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Burns said she wanted about 600 applications and planned to use the $300 fees to pay off the mortgage on the farm. As of Thursday, she had received 250 entries.
Burns announced the deadline extension during an event at the farm on Friday when the Triangle Land Conservancy (TLC) placed a conservation easement on the farm.
The conservation easement is recorded on the deed to the property and ensures that the land is protected from development and will remain a farm forever, according to the conservancy.
“Many aspiring farmers can’t afford to buy farmland,” Burns said. “Bluebird Hill Farm believes in making it possible for new farmers to get started.”
“TLC is excited to help protect this beautiful farm and continue to work with landowners to explore innovative means of transitioning affordable agricultural lands to the next generation of farmers,” said Leigh Ann Hammerbacher, associate director of conservation and stewardship at TLC.
The topic for the 200-word essay that could win the farm is “Why we want to own and operate Bluebird Hill Farm.” There’s a $300 entry fee.
Questions about the contest must be submitted through the Bluebird Hill Farm Facebook page, Burns said.
For complete information about the essay opportunity, the farmhouse amenities, the site data, and the farm buildings and equipment that will be conveyed, go to: www.essaybluebirdhillfarm.com.
Judging will be done by a special “selection committee,” which does not include Burns, and the winners and two runners-up will then be notified.
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.