Farm now, but forever?


In May 2001, media mogul (and sometime Albemarle resident) John W. Kluge gave a gigantic gift of 7,379 acres to the University of Virginia Foundation, the taxable real estate branch of UVA. Valued at the time in excess of $45 million, the land is located in southeastern Albemarle County and comprised 11 farms and estates. While the properties are not contiguous, they amounted to altogether approximately 11.5 square miles, an area larger than the city of Charlottesville.

As part of the gift, Kluge mandated that 749 acres of the historic Morven Farms be held in perpetuity and be used to support the University’s educational programs. The rest of the land could be sold, though, and shortly thereafter was. One of those was a 1,400-acre parcel called Lone Oak Farm. Originally purchased in July 2002 for $3.35 million, it was sold two years later to its current owner, Murcielago Estates, for $4 million. Now it is for sale once again, this time for $8.5 million.

Lone Oak Farm was originally a gift from John Kluge to the UVA Foundation. Now it’s advertised for its 1,400 acres and 13 development rights.

The land is not without restrictions. As the farm was actually functional—at one point a large dairy farm and currently used for cattle—the land was placed under an open-space easement, and charged to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF). The VOF website states that an open-space easement "limits present and future property development rights," and allows "the landowner to live on the property and use it for its traditional use, e.g., as a farm, forest, open space, and/or natural area, but protects it as well."

That at least presumes that Lone Oak Farm will be maintained as a farm, even though Murcielago’s website states it can be divided up to 13 times. Presently, of the county’s 473,600 acres, 283,547 are currently used for farming. Of those, only 91,854 are in agricultural use—the rest in forestry. According to Joe Jones, president of the Albemarle County Farm Bureau, the number of farmers has gone up in recent years—even as farm land has decreased—as more people have begun to develop produce for farmer’s markets, for example. He says the farm bureau currently has 575 "producer members," which counts both those in agriculture and forestry. He estimates that the county has between 1,200 and 1,300 farmers total.

C-VILLE welcomes news tips from readers. Send them to