Ben Taylor and his wife Jan are committed to preserving land along the Kentucky River corridor in southern Woodford County. Within the past six years, they have purchased and protected two farms along the River. Their first purchase in 2004 is located on Mundy’s Landing and consists of 144 acres of open-space and wooded land with significant river frontage. Their most recent purchase, in 2009, includes 193 acres along Brushy Run Road and historically served as a cattle farm. Ben believes protecting this region’s most valuable resources and encouraging landowners to make their land permanently available for agriculture rather than development is the key to success for Kentuckians. By placing conservation easements with Bluegrass Conservancy on his two farms he is confident he has done his part. An interview with Ben Taylor follows:
What is the history of your farms?
I have roots in the horse industry. My brothers and I own Taylor Made Farm, a Thoroughbred operation in Jessamine County. Several years ago my wife and I started searching for property for recreational purposes and the farm on Mundy’s Landing was the perfect fit. The property contains four well-forested tributaries and frontage along the Kentucky River. The farm was historically used as a cattle operation and since our purchase we have introduced native grasses in order to encourage the natural flora and fauna to re-inhabit the areas. My sons and I spend time out on the farm watching the wildlife and occasionally hunt on the land. We purchased the farm along Brushy Run Road at auction in 2009 because of its close vicinity to Mundy’s Landing and we were pleased to discover that the land has a rich history in this part of the county. The farm has approximately 1• miles of Kentucky River frontage and one of the area’s few easily accessible entries along the River. A highly traveled historic road developed along Brushy Run Creek, the boundary of the farm, which led down to a ferry crossing to Cummins Ferry Road in Mercer County. The remains of old grist mills and a distillery are still quite visible today. Farther downstream, a waterfall empties into the Kentucky River. This waterfall is a scenic wonder and focal point of a campground across the River in Mercer County. The area is integral to the settlement of the Bluegrass because the River served as the most accessible mode of transportation and commerce until the introduction of the highway system.
Why did you decide to donate conservation easements on your farms?
It was a great deal for us not only from a conservation standpoint but also from a tax perspective. Jan and I have always been interested in land conservation but were unsure how to put it to practice. Good friends of ours, Drs. David and Laurie Haas, encouraged us to contact Bluegrass Conservancy to learn more about conservation easements as a vehicle for land protection. We initially thought this was something we would do at a later date… that it was not pressing. But after speaking with staff at Bluegrass Conservancy we learned the tax incentives available for a donation of a conservation easement were too beneficial to put off any longer. We decided to move forward with the process and have been thrilled with the results. It is our opinion that conservation easements on land in the Bluegrass Region will enhance and eventually increase the value of our farm and surrounding land over the long term. It has been proven in other parts of the country that if you can build a core area of protected land then it may appreciate more than unprotected land over time. Our two farms in southern Woodford County are in the vicinity of several other properties with conservation easements. Hopefully more landowners in the area will see the benefits and consider placing conservation easements on their land as well. We are confident that a substantial section of the Kentucky River corridor will be protected in the future.
Do you have any advice for a landowner considering the donation of a conservation easement on their farm?
A few suggestions for anyone interested in donating a conservation easement on their farm:
Obtain good tax advice from a CPA. Not all accountants are 1. familiar with the benefits associated with the donation of a conservation easement, so find one that is. A knowledgeable CPA in this area will be able to give you advice that may even enhance your contribution. They can simplify the process for you and with an experienced accountant, you will not pay for their time to get up to speed on the technicalities of a donation. Select the right appraiser. I suggest selecting an appraiser that will 2. work with you to understand the significance of your property. Some appraisers have a greater appreciation for natural areas, historic values, and agriculture. Also, make sure your appraiser understands the real estate climate in your geographical area and uses the most relevant comparables to your property. Know all of the fees involved 3. (CPA, appraiser, etc.). Find out if the fees may be tax deductible because in many situations, such as mine, they have been. Don’t miss out on this opportunity because of the expense. It is very likely that the rewards will more than make up for any cost. Negotiate your easement terms. 4. Try to put in place the exact easement restrictions relative to your property that maximize your goals. We wanted to preserve the land and maximize our potential tax savings. After discussing several options with an appraiser, we settled on restrictions that limited the number of parcels that could be sold separately in the future and included building restrictions that maximized our tax benefits. This allowed us to protect the land from extensive future development but maintain the ability for ourselves and our heirs to sell a portion of the property (still subject to the terms of the easement) if needed. For more information on conservation easements and how you can protect your land contact Ashley Greathouse at 859-255-4552.
Photos courtesy of Ben Taylor.