Local News

Couples write essays, not checks, to own Chatham County farm

Posted February 2

— Couples who dream of living on a small farm will have to write an essay instead of a check to own one Chatham County property.

Norma Burns is a widow who lives alone at Bluebird Hill Farm, and giving it the necessary attention has become too much for her to handle.

“Everybody says it’s so serene, and it is when you sit on the porch at the end of the day, but not in between, not when you're working,” she said.

The former architect is giving away her 13-acre farm to the winner of a 200-word essay contest. The contest has a $300 entry fee and Burns hopes to use the money to pay off the mortgage on the $450,000 property.

The contest is open to couples between the ages of 25 and 50 who must explain to Burns the reason they want to own a small organic farm.

“I really wanted to do something for young people who deserve to have a place,” she said. “Somebody who’s 60 has already got an education, they’ve probably already had a career, they can probably afford to buy a farm.”

Burns said she could list the farm, which she bought in 1998, and find a buyer in the usual way but, to her, the property is not just real estate -- it’s a real asset that demands real commitment.

“It takes so much to grow things,” Burns said.

For more than 18 years, Burns has grown crops on the land, and she’s determined to see the property remain a farm.

“That’s part of the reason why I couldn’t just bob it off on some rich person who would sit back and enjoy it,” she said.

Burns is requiring resumes and references with each entry to make sure the property goes to someone qualified to keep the farm running. She has also had the contest vetted by an attorney.

“Let’s pass it on to someone who’s got the strength and energy and will,” she said.

Burns said she needs 1,500 entries to cover the mortgage and provide $50,000 to help the new owners get started. If she does not get enough entries, the fees will be refunded.

Entries can be submitted until June 1.

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