Press Release: A family’s Love for the land and a legacy of conservation

June 23, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

June 27, 2022 

A family’s love for the land and a legacy of conservation 

Durham, NC –Last week, Triangle Land Conservancy received one of the most significant donations in its 39-year history. Sally Williamson Greaser and her husband Jeff donated the remainder of their family farm to TLC in memory of her sister, Betty Brandt Williamson, who passed away last year. The 42-acre site protects the rest of the Williamson Family Farm. It includes 33 acres of prime agricultural land, the historic Oaky Grove church built in 1876, the landmark Frog Pond Academy, and several other structures which help make up the Nationally Registered Walnut Hill Rural Historic District. 

Betty Brandt and Sally spent their early years on the farm and many summers afterward, often helping their father harvest the tobacco crop. All the family felt a sense of tranquility and peace at the farm. This love for the land led their parents, Bailey and Sarah Williamson, to approach TLC about conserving their farm in 2002. Concerned about the rapid growth and development coming to eastern Wake County, they foresaw a need to preserve this land. 

By then, TLC had identified the Marks Creek area as one of six key priority areas in the region due to its natural resources, streams, historic landscape, and essential farmlands. Scenic America designated the area as one of its “10 Last Chance Landscapes to See” in America. The property is located 15-minutes from downtown Raleigh, near the rapidly growing communities of Knightdale and Wendell Falls. The region is home to many working farms, National Historic Structures, and natural areas that harbor rare species. 

 The initial discussions were put on hold by the unexpected death of Bailey Williamson in 2003. Sally, Betty Brandt, and their mother continued talks with TLC about conserving the 405-acre farm. Still, they encountered numerous roadblocks, including the Great Recession of 2008 and their mother’s declining health. After Sarah Williamson died in 2013, TLC secured funding from six different sources to acquire most of the tract, including funding from the State’s Land and Water Fund and Wake and Johnston Counties. 

While TLC worked on securing funds for the acquisition, the Williamson sisters patiently waited for the outcome. But they stepped up with a generous donation to TLC of over 60% of the value of the farm to help support its protection. Still, TLC did not have enough funding to acquire the entire farm, so Betty Brandt, known to hop on the tractor and help bush hog the fields, retained the family home, historic structures, and the 33 acres of land across the street. Betty Brandt had begun discussions again with TLC about permanently conserving the remaining land but tragically passed away in July of 2021. However, Sally Greaser and her husband, Jeff, who had inherited the farm from Betty Brandt, knew what they wanted to do with the property. Sally approached TLC about accepting a donation of the land and its historic structures. TLC was elated that Sally wanted to fulfill her parent’s and sister’s wishes to conserve the entirety of the family farm. 

TLC plans to work with partners to restore the buildings on the site, maintain the 33 acres of prime agricultural soils in production using regenerative agriculture techniques, and work with Wake County to grant them an easement on the farm. With the rapid growth in the area, TLC is incredibly grateful for the generous donation and the addition of protected land in the Triangle. TLC Executive Director Sandy Sweitzer said, “I can think of no greater legacy one could leave than giving incredible land such as this to our organization. We are honored and humbled. TLC plans to steward the land and preserve it for all people of the Triangle to enjoy.” 

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