Dave and Verlinda Waters grew up on family farms in Meigs County, then moved away.
Now they are back, managing those farms to grow food for today and to preserve farmland and family farm food for the future.
River Ridge Farm is the second property conserved in Meigs County. A total of 5,935 acres have been conserved in four years by the Land Trust for Tennessee.
Source: The Land Trust for Tennessee
The Waterses and the Land Trust for Tennessee on Monday announced a permanent conservation agreement for 152 acres of working farmland on the Tennessee River.
Known as River Ridge Farm, the Waterses' property contains more than 2,000 feet of river frontage and is next to Washington Ferry, a Civil War ferry site that's on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to maintaining the historic context of the ferry site, the agreement will preserve the scenic view from the river and the Highway 30 bridge between Rhea and Meigs counties.
But for the Waterses, what it really means is the land can't be broken up into subdivisions. It can be willed or sold, but only as a single plat of working farmland.
"I spent my last years in the military working in Washington, D.C., and saw how fast land can get chewed up and how sprawl can just create all kinds of problems," Dave Waters said. "I hope in the Chattanooga area that we don't create those kind of problems for our children and grandchildren in the years to come. Jobs are important, but there are some things you can never replace."
The farm's conservation resources meet stringent criteria of the nationally competitive Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, bringing in the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service as a party to the agreement.
The Waterses primarily raise organic, grass-fed beef cattle that they sell through farmers markets in Chattanooga and Knoxville.
Tricia King, southeast project manager for the Land Trust for Tennessee, said contributions to help conserve the farm came from the Lyndhurst Foundation, Benwood Foundation, the Tennessee Tobacco Board, the Cracker Barrel Foundation and Slow Food Chattanooga.
Jean C. Nelson, president and executive director of the Land Trust, said the farm's preservation is important not just to those who care about farming, but to the state's agricultural and historical legacies.
"The conservation of River Ridge Farm is a shining example of a community rallying around a working farm of statewide significance," she said.