The Fundraiser of January 21 was a great sucess. Thank you to everyone who attended. Thank you for opening your hearts and wallets and helping us raise so much money. (read more)
Remember, if you missed the Fundraiser, you may still help Save Legare Farms by making a donation one of the three ways listed below.
Donate to Save Legare Farms.
SLF has an account at Wells Fargo Bank.
Checks can be mailed to 2620 Hanscombe Pt. Rd. Johns Island, SC 29455
Update: Although the lawsuit has been settled, Legare Farms still faces an uncertain future. (read more)
After nearly 300 years of farming Legare Farms on JohnsIsland may be in peril. Not for the reasons you might think, not because of a crop loss, or an unexpected disease of the farm’s livestock or bad weather but because city people want to live in the country. It sounds idealistic in concept but sometimes country ways and city people just don’t mix.
Thomas Legare Jr, Helen Legare-Floyd and Linda Legare Berry are the ninth generation of Legares to farm on Johns Island; the Legares started farming there in 1725. The property in question came to the Legare family in the 1830’s from Thomas Hanscombe. Thomas Hanscombe gave the property for the Johns Island Presbyterian Church which was built in 1719. In the early 1980’s the Legare siblings’ great Aunt gifted her portion of the farm to their father Thomas Legare Sr. with the exception of 4 one acre lots that she gifted to her other nephews and niece. She believed all family members should own a piece of their heritage even though Thomas Sr. was the only one farming. Three of these lots have now been sold out of the family and here in lies the problem. The Legare property is a peninsular with water on 3 sides and the lots are at the very tip of the peninsular making it necessary for the lot owners to cross not only the Legare’s farm but also the Jenkins family’s farm to reach their property.
Billy and Beth Hughes purchased one of the water front lots with a house from Bill Thames in May of 2005. Everything seemed great for 4 and ½ years. The Hughes and Legares were friendly, attending parties at each others homes and the children played together. Dr. Beth Hughes was so well liked by the Legares that each of them made her their family doctor as well as their mother’s who was suffering with Alzheimers. In the fall of 2009 the Legares were notified by a letter from Dr. Hughes that she could no longer be their doctor. When they inquired why, Dr. Hughes stated that she had been advised to terminate them as patients because of the lawsuit. (Dr. Hughes’ practice is owned by Roper/StFrancis hospitals). A lawsuit was news to the Legare family; they had had no complaints or crosswords with the Hughes and were surprised to learn there was a problem.
The lawsuit has 2 basic points although there are many points to the lawsuit. The first being the definition of R/W. The Hughes lawyer translates the R/W on the Hughes plat to mean RoadWay however in all legal documents including CharlestonCounty’s R/W means Right of Way. A Right of Way gives the Hughes the right to cross the Legares’ property to reach their property. It does not require the Legares to provide a RoadWay must less a well maintained roadway as the lawsuit is requesting. Unimproved dirt roads are part of living in the country. If you are going to live in the country be prepared to maintain your own dirt road at your own expense say the Legares.
The second part of the lawsuit pertains directly to the Legares farming operation. The Legares raise beef cattle as well as other livestock. There have been beef cattle on their property since the 1830’s and a livestock gate at the entrance to the property. The gate and the cattle were there in 2005 when the Hughes purchased their property. Nothing changed between 2005 and 2009 when the lawsuit was filed. Now according to the Hughes attorney Joe Qualey, Dr. Hughes is afraid to get out of her car at night to open and shut the gate when passing through the Legares’ property. Mr. Qualey states that it is dangerous for Dr. Hughes to drive down this isolated road at night with cows. It makes you wonder why the Hughes didn’t consider this before purchasing the property or better yet why it wasn’t a problem for over 4 years before the lawsuit was filed. The lawsuit asks for the Legares to remove the livestock gate from their property and fence both sides of the roadway to keep the cows out of the road. The road is over a mile long and cuts the 300 acre farm in half. It would require over 10,000 feet of fence at a cost of at the very least $50,000. The Legares say there is no way they could afford to do this. The farming operation affords the 3 siblings a wonderful way of life but very little monetarily. The farm is just scraping by as it is. The Legares say that if they were to lose any part of the lawsuit that the farm would have to be sold.
So here is where a simple lawsuit affects all of us not just the Legares and the Hughes but each of us. This is not the only lawsuit being filed in the United States by city folks moving to the country. It was so much of a concern that the SC General Assembly passed a right to farm act in 2006. We all must be concerned over the outcome of this lawsuit and all the others against farmers unless we are willing to eat food grown in India, Vietnam, or Mexico. If we allow these lawsuits to bankrupt our local farmers then we will have no choice but to eat foreign food. It’s not about wealthy doctors who want to live on the water but about the future of American agriculture. Is this what we want for the future of our local agriculture as well as American agriculture?