Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board Welcomes Donation of 45th Conservation Easement

On December 30, Henry A. Willard, III and John Brooks Willard signed their deed of conservation easement for their 93-acre property in Shepherdstown, protecting the farm’s rolling pastures and rural landscape forever.  The Willards donated 100% of the easement value on the property. This is the 45th farm in Jefferson County to join the county’s Farmland Protection Program.

Hank Willard displays his new Farmland Protection sign.
Photo Credit: Liz Wheeler

The new easement increases the amount of farmland under protection in Jefferson County to 4,706 acres.  More than 99% of the newly protected land is composed of prime and statewide important agricultural soils.  The farm produces hay and beef cattle, and buffers sink holes, a seasonal stream and a section of the Potomac River.

Hank Willard said, “My brother and I are immensely proud to donate this easement to the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board. We inherited the 93-acre farm, where my parents had lived for the past forty years, when my father passed away recently. It has been productively farmed during those years, but it also is a uniquely beautiful piece of land that we felt must be preserved intact. It is very comforting for us to know that it will remain eternally, inviolably in the condition that our parents enjoyed for so many years and as a buffer against some of the random and poorly planned development that is occurring in Jefferson County.  While the process of deeding a conservation easement can be complex, it was made almost effortless by the efficiency of the Board and Program Director Liz Wheeler.”

Rob Glenn, President of the Board, said, “The donation of this conservation easement by the Willard family is an extraordinary and priceless gift to Jefferson County that will benefit the residents of the County for generations.”

According to the Census of Agriculture, between 2012 and 2017 Jefferson County lost 852 acres of farmland to residential and commercial development.   

“The Willard family’s gift is a most generous legacy.  It will help the Board spread its limited funds to protect more farms.  It has never been more important to preserve farms and sustain our agricultural heritage if we are to remain a viable agricultural economy,” stated County Commissioner Jane Tabb.  

“By protecting our county’s farmland, we help preserve Jefferson County’s rural heritage and quality of life,” said Elizabeth Wheeler, the Board’s Program Director.  “Local farms provide us with healthy food, support a diverse economy, and protect water supplies, wildlife habitat and the scenic and historical landscapes that make Jefferson County such a beautiful place to live and visit.”

For more information about the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board, contact the Board at: 304/724-1414 or