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LTLT’s Hiwassee-Valley Land Trust project conserves its first riverfront property

Hiwassee-Valley Land Trust, a project of the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee, is celebrating a milestone in its conservation work: the acquisition of a unique, historic farm that lies on 0.8 miles of Valley River near Andrews. The 100-acre Salman Farm was acquired by the land trust on April 29 and is now protected by a conservation easement that ensures that the land will remain available for agriculture, stream and wildlife habitat, and passive recreation. The conservation easement allows one residence, as well as barns and other farm structures.

Lying near Andrews, about a mile and a half west of the airport, the Salman Farm contains exceptional surface waters, productive farmland, cultural history, and scenic beauty. In addition to almost 4,500 feet of Valley River frontage, the farm holds portions of three creeks as well as 3,000 linear feet of oxbow wetlands – the old, meandering channel of Valley River – which provide outstanding waterfowl habitat.

Streams and oxbows will be protected by buffer areas of native trees and shrubs, still leaving two-thirds of the land available for farming. The sandy loam soil in the Valley River floodplain has a history of exceptionally heavy crop yields. This year, a local farmer will lease most of the farmland for corn, soybeans, and beef cattle, while a smaller section will be a community garden tended by local young people through Cherokee County Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program.

The cultural significance of the Salman Farm rests on its being a part of the historic Welch Farm; indeed, the property contains most of the cropland and river frontage of what was, in the early-to-mid 1800s, a two-square-mile estate. “Welch’s Town” consisted of two village areas in the lower Snowbird Mountains north of today’s Salman Farm, where several Native families escaped the 1838 removal by accepting safe haven provided by John and Betty Welch.

According to the records of William Holland Thomas, 27 Cherokee families were living in Welch’s Town by 1840. Further information is available in A Struggle for Cherokee Community: Excavating Identity in Post-Removal North Carolina, a 2009 UNC-Chapel Hill doctoral dissertation by Lance Greene.