By Kirsten Werner,
Driving down the lane at Turkey Run Farm is like traveling back in time. Perched at the top of a steeply sloped stream valley, the circa 1825 stone farmhouse enjoys views across meadows, a placid pond, and the forest beyond. “It’s a compelling vista,” says owner Ken Simpler, who purchased the 29-acre property in 2004 and lives there with his wife and three children. “I can’t help but think of the settlers when they first arrived at this spot.”
Ken has worked tirelessly over the past 15 years to restore what he calls the “cultural footprint” of Turkey Run Farm – so named for the small tributary to White Clay Creek that runs through the property. Once part of a thriving 100-acre farm and nursery owned by the Frederick family (who also donated the land for Delaware Nature Society’s Coverdale Farm Preserve), the property had fallen into disrepair. In addition to restoring the farmhouse and bank barn, the Simpler’s stewarded the land, too, removing invasive plants like autumn olive and multiflora rose, and planting the long-fallow fields with native grasses.
Turkey Run Farm is one of 23 such properties that are permanently protected by conservation easements held by Delaware Nature Society. All told, they total 550 acres of protected land across the region.
If growth trends continue, experts project Delaware will have one million residents by 2021. As development pressures increase, properties like Turkey Run Farm become all the more critical for the ecological services they provide – including cleaning our air and water, reducing flooding, and storing carbon – as well as their contribution to a pastoral and scenic “sense of place.”
Ken says that he and his family saw it as an asset that a conservation easement was in place when they purchased the property. “It’s a privilege to own this place, but it’s a responsibility, too. I hope that when I’m long gone this farm remains as it is…as it was meant to be.”
Kirsten Werner is Senior Director of Communications for Natural Lands Trust