A dynamic, working 65-acre farm with a rich history, the Glen Leven Farm is a model of farmland conservation practices.
“Glen Leven Farm is something of a land conservation museum,” says Liz Edsall McLaurin, president of The Land Trust for Tennessee.
The farm, which is located 4 miles from downtown Nashville, was donated to the nonprofit land conservation organization in 2006 through a will left by Susan M. West, whose instructions said to leave the land intact.
Full of rich history, Glen Leven Farm was once the site of a field hospital during the Battle of Nashville during the Civil War, as well as the home to John M. Thompson, a Tennessee commissioner of agriculture. It now hosts educational programs by appointment and has regular open days, with about 25 acres conserved for diverse uses like educational gardens. There is also an arboretum that includes the country’s largest mass of American Yellowwood.
Additionally, The Hermitage Hotel’s Sustainable Farming Project tends a 2-acre heirloom garden. Farm-fresh produce is both served at the hotel’s Capitol Grille and donated to area food pantries. Hermitage Hotel guests support The Land Trust of Tennessee’s statewide work through a $3-per-room night opt-out donation program.
Glen Leven Farm hosts events with low land impacts – corporate retreats, weddings, and video and photo shoots, as well as educational programming, though the vast majority of funding comes from individual gifts and grants.
A herd of registered Polled Shorthorn cattle are at home on Glen Leven Farm’s other 40 acres, fenced into smaller fields. This allows easy movement of cattle to fresh pasture, discouraging overgrazing and soil erosion. Farm streams are also fenced, with two crossings for cattle and equipment.
“In 2015, we had our second farm field day, partnering with the Davidson County Soil Conservation District and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, showcasing the conservation practices here,” says Gary Moore, farmland conservation director for the Trust.
The organization has protected nearly 100,000 acres in 58 counties, largely through donated conservation easements.
“A conservation easement is an agreement between a landowner and a land trust that limits development and protects the conservation values of the property forever,” Moore says.
While there can be significant tax advantages for donating easements, Moore notes landowners do not typically make their decisions based on those benefits.
“Our landowners are motivated by love of the land. They want it to remain in its present state for future generations as a legacy,” he says.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture assists in these easements through a grant that helps cover transaction costs for landowners who demonstrate need.
“Glen Leven Farm has really become a front door for our organization in Middle Tennessee,” McLaurin says. “It is a tangible embodiment of so many aspects of our mission – a place to learn about the importance of agriculture, history and open space conservation.”