Margaret Virginia Smith was just 19 years old when her father passed away in 1944, leaving her with the family farm and instructions to “provide for your mother for her natural life.”
By that time, the Pulaski County farm had already been reduced from 300-plus acres to little more than 100. Smith’s father, J. Logan Smith, had been forced to sell much of his property to survive the Great Depression. Then, the war effort took even more of the Smith family’s land. A large chunk was sold to the Fairlawn Realty Company in 1941 to provide housing for the crush of people descending on the county for work at the Radford Ordnance Works — later known as the Radford Army Ammunition Plant — which produced gunpowder for World War II. A suburb was born, but a family farm was dying.
However, Smith’s father saved the best for his daughter.
The remaining property was perched high above the New River, and the 1920s farmhouse afforded views of the City of Radford across the way. Apple trees and hay fields cradled the house like a mother’s arms. Cattle grazed in green pastures as the burgeoning suburb of Fairlawn prospered and expanded, threatening to overtake the remaining farmland from which it was born.
After selling more land to the county for a new elementary school, Smith decided that her family had done enough to help the development of the young community. That was 60 years ago. Since then Smith has held on to the remaining 106-acre farm — an emerald isle in a sprawling sea of houses, fast-food joints, and shopping centers.
Smith, who never married, says, “For years I’ve known that I didn’t want the land to be developed, and then I started reading about the Virginia Outdoors Foundation in the newspaper.” Recently, she declared in her will that the farm will be given to VOF, which will forever preserve the property as open space. Smith hopes that eventually her land can become a public park with ball fields, walking trails, and picnic shelters. No matter what happens, she knows that it will be protected and remain as the open rolling fields that she has known her whole life.
VOF Executive Director Bob Lee says the gift is an extraordinary act of generosity. “The Smith farm is truly a gem. This gift will provide so many benefits to the community surrounding it, as well as the greater Commonwealth. It is rare that we have an individual so committed to not only the conservation of their land, but also to sharing it with the community.”