VOF Protects 600,000th Acre; Adds 25,185 Acres in 2010

A century-old family farm in southern Pittsylvania County has become home to the 600,000th acre protected by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF), Virginia’s largest land conservation organization, VOF Executive Director Bob Lee announced today.

Hill View Farm’s owners, Bob and Billie Pollok, finalized the donation of a 252-acre conservation easement on the property to VOF last week. Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between landowners and qualified land trusts that protect open space from extensive commercial and residential development while allowing compatible uses such as farming, forestry, and recreation.

The easement is one of 126 easements VOF recorded overall in 2010, protecting 25,185 acres across 51 counties and independent cities. Nearly 75 percent of the easements protect agricultural land. The easements contribute to Governor Bob McDonnell’s goal of protecting 400,000 acres of open space during his administration.

“I want to congratulate the Virginia Outdoors Foundation for achieving such an impressive milestone,” said Governor McDonnell. “Conserving Virginia’s spectacular landscapes is one of my top priorities. Bob Lee and the VOF are leaders in this effort.”

Hill View Farm has been in the Pollok family since 1884. For the last 25 years, the Polloks have been operating primarily as a certified seed grower — producing and selling wheat, barley, oat, and soybean seeds to other farmers in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. They practice no-till farming to reduce soil erosion, have set aside portions of the property for wildlife habitat, and have fenced livestock out of springs and streams. Their stewardship efforts have earned them Clean Water Farm and Cooperator of the Year awards from their local soil and water conservation district.

“We saw housing developments going up all around us and seed farms being cut up completely, and we just didn’t want that to happen to our farm that has been in operation for generations,” said Mr. Pollok. “With the easement, we are doing the best we can to preserve it as a working farm.”

Because of the public benefits of protecting open space, habitat, water quality, and other conservation values, landowners who donate easements in Virginia can receive state and federal tax benefits.

VOF now holds more than 3,100 easements covering 606,534 acres across 105 localities. That is more conservation easements than are held by any other land trust in the nation. VOF protects more land than any other state, local, or private entity in Virginia.

Jason McGarvey is VOF's communications and outreach manager. He is based in the Richmond office.