New Farmland Owner in Guilford County Builds Relationships With Farm Neighbors

— Written By William Hamilton and last updated by
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Renee Kennedy knew the beautiful farm house and 110 acres she had under contract to purchase in Pleasant Gardens, Guilford County was where she wanted her family to be, but she was concerned, rightly so, about the prospect of having to own and take care of so much land. That’s where Renee crossed paths with us at NC FarmLink

Kennedy Property, Guilford County, 2020

Kennedy Property, Guilford County, 2020

The first thing we advised Renee on was the ability for Renee to accept the deferred tax liability from the seller, a savings of 3 years of highest and best use back taxes for the seller, and a savings of three years of highest and best taxes going forward for Renee. If you look at the variety of public policy incentives available in North Carolina that encourage the preservation of open space, the deferred property tax program, aka the Present Use Value Program, is one of the best resources this state has. This program allows landowners of farmland, horticultural land, and forest land to be taxed on the agricultural value or timber production capacity of the land, rather than the residential value, and can greatly reduce property taxes if the land is managed in compliance with the rules of the program.

Getting that behind her, but being new to the neighborhood, it was a struggle for Renee to get enough information about the local agricultural community to connect with someone she felt comfortable with to farm her land. Renee reached back out to us at NC FarmLink to let us know the grass was getting tall and what could she do?

Cara Smith raking hay

Cara Smith raking hay on Kennedy Property, 2020

We created a farm profile for Renee and sent that out to local Guilford County Livestock Agent Cole Maness who sent the land opportunity out to his network of farmers in Guilford County. This immediately gave Renee a chance to interview a handful of farmers to determine who she wanted to lease her land to. Turns out one of the farmers was her immediate neighbor on her rear property line who she had not had the chance to meet (Elaine and Craig Smith and Family). Craig and Elaine, Craig’s father Jim Smith, daughter Cara, and son Thomas have been farming their whole lives and are currently running about 175 cow/calf beef cattle operation.

When I was recently on the phone with Craig they were in Brookings, South Dakota at the American Junior Simmental Association 2020 National Classic where Cara Smith was just inducted as President of the Association. That’s impressive!

Jim Smith

Jim Smith raking hay on Kennedy Property

Chris Dick, who owns a horse boarding facility and land with riding trails very close by, Shooting Star Farms, leased a portion of the farm for alfalfa production.

“The farmers that contacted me through the NC FarmLink posting were all impressive. It was a great way to meet some of the farmers with the best potential in the area. It also gave me a chance to interview them and make the best decision possible for my family and me. We live on the farm and its really important to us that we have a positive working relationship with the people that use our land.”

Kennedy Property

Kennedy Property 2020

“Working with William Hamilton over a period of about 8 months has been a complete joy. He informed me about some vital agricultural property tax savings, brought in other experts such as USDA-NRCS, and gave me the confidence I needed to make good decisions for myself. Owning a large tract of farmland is a huge responsibility. When the Smith family started cutting hay a few weeks ago, I felt a huge relief. My land was being kept productive, it was being taken care of, and I felt I had found the perfect match with folks who I knew I could trust, and who I felt I could build a great relationships with. With CraigCraig‘s father, Craig‘s daughter and son, there were three generations of Smith’s on the farm working together and that was a joy to see. Plus, they are my immediate neighbors! When I was trying to decide who I should lease my land to, William told me that at the end of the day, who’s tractor do you want to lean up against and share stories with? Who makes you feel comfortable? This was sage advice because we live on the farm and we want it to feel like home. Thank you William and NC FarmLink for helping us.” 

William Hamilton and Dr. Noah Ranells, Co-Directors of NC FarmLink, are available statewide to assist landowners in a variety of ways regarding owning farmland, leasing farmland, and land management. You can reach William Hamilton (servicing western 45 counties) at 828-273-5663 or or Dr. Noah Ranells (serving 55 eastern counties) at 919-619-9180 or Read more about NC FarmLink at