Even though they had been using land that didn’t belong to them, a handful of elderly urban farmers must have been cultivating a crop of goodwill –because they harvested a gift of 8 acres of new land.
Real estate developer Bob Clark of Clayco, Inc., whenever he drove by on the highway, had always been fascinated to see the urban farmers work a stretch of land near the airport in St. Louis, Missouri. When his company bought the land out from under them, Clark found a way they could keep farming.
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The men, mostly in their seventies, always knew they’d have to give up the land.
About two dozen construction and factory workers had been growing beans, tomatoes, okra, and other crops there for 35 years. What started as an amusement, turned into a money saving source of nutrition for their families as they retired.
The Airport Authority, which owned the land until 2006, had let them stay, and even gave them water for their crops because they kept tidy the nine acres — saving the airport about $60,000 in mowing costs every year.
When the airport sold the land to become part of a massive real estate development, the farmers were ready to pack away their plows. That’s when Clark stepped in with other plans.
He offered the farmers eight acres right across the street — and a deal that allowed them to farm it for the rest of their lives.
On top of that, he threw in an irrigation system and a building that has running water.
“I’ve always been appreciative of how they’ve operated,” Clark told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “Most of them are retired folks — people who had productive careers but weren’t ready to sit around the house for the rest of their lives.”
Clark decided even before he bought the land in 2006, he would always make sure these farmers could keep growing crops. He’s directed his company’s lawyers to make sure the new land can be used for agricultural purposes in perpetuity.
The men will own the eight acres outright — and can hand it down to future farmers.
(READ more in the St. Louis Post Dispatch) — Photos: Biswarup Ganguly, CC; Clayco, Inc.
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