I have been a student of the land for the last 20 years and I have learned a very special secret. We speak to the future generations through the land as our forbearers whisper hints of their lives to us from the land. It is not our children, it is the land that is the link to our past and to our future.
    There is a small family cemetery on the farm — deep in the woods and marked by great red cedar trees that were traditionally planted at each headstone. The five small stones are records of a family that worked the longleaf pines from 1801 to 1900. An old map marks the site on Big Island that was the first change of horses on the Fayetteville-Wilmington stagecoach run.
    One of the last East Coast panthers roams the woods with the bear, wild turkey, quail and snakes. But it is the land that I love most — the coastal Bermuda fields where the goats browsed, the great cypress trees down in the lower swamp and that vast six-mile long field full of corn and soybeans that can be seen from the unbroken view at the upper end — it still takes my breath away. My husband, Steve, and I grew a million turkeys a year on the land and the day he died I had 1,000 Boer goats. {mosimage}
    On Aug. 8, at 10:08 a.m., I will forever surrender the farm back to the wetlands. I would not be truthful if I did not confess to a little sadness. But the land has been good to us over the years and deserves a rest and a return to its natural state. It is not the death of a farm but the “resurrection of the wetlands.” The climate is changing, population pressure is growing and the American way of life is facing challenges. We are going to have to rethink our large, fuel consuming farms and the way we use and store precious water; the role of the wetlands in filtration, clean air and energy; the need to adapt crops to changing environments to assure our food supply and the connections between human survival and the earth.
    I think it was Thomas Friedman who observed that “if we are the deluge, we are also the ark.”
The North Carolina Farm Center for Innovation and Sustainability will also be born on Aug. 8. The vision for the center is to become an “incubator” in the purest sense of the word. Guided by a group of wise and talented advisors, “green entrepreneurs” will have a place to practice or plant an idea. Innovative “wizards” will have the opportunity to provide their bio-based technologies to landowners who in turn can put it into service. Perhaps a “green engine” can be sparked that will drive the future jobs that will grow from the ecosystems. And two years from now, once one million trees have been planted, the plan is to build a 100 percent off the grid sustainable “lodge” that will host community conversations, encourage think tank meetings and strive to forge our link to future generations of both mankind and the wildlife.
    Over the past seven years I owe a debt of gratitude to so many of you who knowingly or unknowingly gave me a lot of “buck-up and get on with it” support.  And when the temptation to “just sell the place” would come back I would remember the epithet I placed on Steve’s stone:
    “Man is temporary, the land is forever.”
    So, on Aug. 8, we are going to “stand this project up” and we invite you to celebrate it with us.
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