For the last 20 years, Randy Silvers has worked the land, mended fences, raised horses and all around restored and maintained a 35-acre farm in Essex County, Virginia, nearly 100 miles south of Washington, D.C. When his wife used to broach the topic of selling it because the property is getting to be a bit much for them to manage, he would become "quite agitated and angry."
"We aren’t selling the farm!" Silvers' wife, Carolyn Berry, wrote on their farm's blog of her husband's stance.
So, they're not selling it: Silvers and Berry will be giving Rock Spring Farm away.
But not just to anyone. The owners of the property valued at $600,000 and located in the small unincorporated community of Hustle are looking to pick the next owner who best conveys their love of the land and a passion for horses in an essay contest.
"The essay contest had piqued his interest. Maybe it was a better alternative to the traditional real estate sign posted alongside the road. Perhaps the essay contest would appeal to people who would love the farm as much as we do — as much as Margie did," Berry wrote on the blog (Margie is Silvers late wife with whom he originally bought the farm in 1995). "I saw it almost immediately — a sparkle in his eye, a brisker pace — an acceptance that life would go on without Rock Spring Farm. He and I would start a new journey, and we launched the Rock Spring Farm Essay Contest."
"I can’t swing a hammer like I used to," Silvers, who has rheumatoid arthritis, told WAMU American University Radio's Rebecca Sheir in a recent interview. "I can do it for about five minutes and then I’m in such pain I can’t do it anymore. And I don’t want to have the farm fall apart and then get rid of it. I’d rather have the contest now, while the farm is in good shape and I’m in good enough shape to keep it up."
The couple started the contest in March, basing some of its structure on other successful real estate essay contests (it's actually somewhat of a thing). Entries must be postmarked by Oct. 1, 2015, and received by October 17.
Another reason for the essay contest, Berry told WAMU, is that they themselves would be able to afford the property at its current valuation and it's something they hope to offer to someone who also "most likely would never be able to afford this."
Hoping to receive at least 5,000 essays each with a $200 entry fee, the couple plans to use the money to pay off their mortgage, taxes, establish a college fund for grandkids and use the rest in their retirement, WAMU reported.
The couple will narrow down the essays — the authors of which will remain anonymous to them — to only 25, which will then be judged by an impartial panel of educators, hobbyist farmers and horse enthusiasts. The winner and runner up will be chosen by Nov. 26, 2015, with the runner up being offered the property if the first place winner decides not to take it.
The person who wins and agrees to take the property also agrees not to develop it or sell it for at least two years.
Even though this method is more palatable than selling it the traditional way, Silvers told the radio station it's still not an easy task.
"It’s heart-wrenching," Silvers told WAMU. "But the people that do win this will be following in their own dreams but also carrying on a legacy that this place has started."
Check out the Rock Spring Farm blog for more info on the contest and a whole set of documents on how to enter here. There are photos of the farm, its home and other buildings on the property on its Facebook page.
Front page image via Shutterstock.