“Although our donation has been described by one person or another as ‘an extreme sacrifice,’ ‘uncommonly generous,’ ‘naive,’ and even ‘foolhardy,’ to us there was really no other choice.”
Author: Jake Lea
Location: Berks County
Land Trust: Montgomery County Lands Trust (now Natural Lands)
I work for Montgomery County Lands Trust. But long before I made land conservation a vocation, my love of the land was deeply ingrained. I grew up spending every spare moment of my childhood exploring the woods and fields of my Great Uncle’s farm in what was then rural Montgomery County. I hiked, rode horses, baled hay, plowed fields, milked cows, sheared sheep, gathered eggs, studied wildlife, hunted game, and fished the ponds. Love of the land literally came to me naturally. Fortunately, through the foresight and generosity of my mother, who inherited my Great Uncle’s property, 110 acres of that farm is now owned by a non-profit land conservancy.
In 1972, my wife Gretchen and I were house hunting and had the good fortune to purchase a 20-acre farm near Boyertown, PA. Since that initial purchase, we have been adding to our property by purchasing adjacent parcels as we are able. We now own over 60 acres. My dogs and I walk the property daily. My wife and I watch the red-tail hawks, the turkey, the fox, the deer, and the squirrels as they go through the seasons. We see the crops being planted, nourished, and harvested. Over the years, it has reinforced our view that there is more to land than a monetary value. The smell of newly mown hay, the yip of a young fox, the snort of a startled deer, or the scream of a red-tail hawk cannot be replaced with an enhanced bank account.
In 2002, Gretchen and I met with our daughters just as my mother had consulted with her own children. We expressed our desire to permanently preserve our farm. As I had encouraged my mother to preserve my Great Uncle’s farm, my daughters enthusiastically encouraged us to preserve our farm. In December 2002, we donated a conservation easement to Montgomery County Lands Trust. While some I have spoken to think my wife and I are foolish, I have experienced no greater sense of satisfaction than knowing that the land that Gretchen and I cherish will remain unspoiled for others to enjoy well beyond our lifetimes. Although our donation has been described by one person or another as ‘an extreme sacrifice,’ ‘uncommonly generous,’ ‘naive,’ and even ‘foolhardy,’ to us there was really no other choice. You might say that I was genetically programmed to conserve our land.