Write an essay, get a farm!

Washington: A couple in the US state of Virginia is offering their 35-acre picturesque farm valued at $600,000 for just $200 and a flawless 1,000-word essay on how the contestant will take care of the farm. Essays for the farm must be postmarked by October 1.

The Rock Springs Farm
The Rock Springs Farm and its owners Randy Silvers and Carolyn Berry (below). Pics/Facebook

After reviewing them, the couple — Randy Silvers and Carolyn Berry — will select 25 finalists and pass the essays along to a panel of three judges — an educator, a hobby farmer and a horse enthusiast — who will select a winner on November 26. They are hoping to receive 5,000 essays, for a total of $1 million. “The opening paragraph has to grab you,” Berry said.

“It has to say ‘read me.’ No spelling, writing, grammar mistakes. And they have to spell out how they’ll take care of the farm.”

Randy Silvers and Carolyn Berry

Berry said she was inspired by an essay contest for the Center Lovell Inn in Maine, a bed-and-breakfast that was won for $100 in 1993 by a woman named Janice Sage. Sage wrote a 250-word essay that demonstrated her culinary and hospitality savvy, and her ability to care for the inn.

If the couple does not receive the anticipated number of essays (or something close to it), the couple will list the property, valued at $600,000. “In that case, we would return all the money,” says Berry. Silvers has called the horse farm, a two-hour drive south of Washington, home for nearly 20 years. It dates to the 18th century, and it was nearly barren when he took it over. Now it boasts a three-storey, four-bedroom home, a two-bedroom cottage, a five-stall barn and an air-conditioned woodworking shop. That is in addition to horse trails, acres upon acres of loamy soil and an endless patchwork of mature hardwood trees bordered by natural streams.

Silvers and Berry have day jobs; he is a construction foreman and she is a director of a tutoring facility. They want to find someone who will cherish the farm just as much. But instead of selling it, they are looking for people who can show them what they could bring to it.

Objections

Meanwhile, a few people have raised questions about the legality of giving away homes through a raffle. Under Virginia law, the essay contest for Rock Spring Farm does not qualify as charitable gaming, said Michael Menefee, programme manager of the state Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programmes.

Essex County Commonwealth’s Attorney Vince Donoghue said, “The matter is under review.” But, he said he is not treating the issue as if the family has malicious intentions.

“This is a nice family just trying to give away a house and pay off the mortgage,” Donoghue added.

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