Feeling Lucky? A Short Essay Could Score You a Sweet Debt-Free Farm

Newstead on the James in Cartersville, Virginia.

All photos courtesy of Carol Carper


If someone told you that you could have their $1.5 million house and farm just by telling them how badly you wanted it, would you believe them? If that someone were Carol Carper, you should.

Carper, 70, opened an essay contest recently in search of the person most passionate about taking over Newstead on the James, her Central Virginia farm and home of the last 21 years.

“It sounded like the perfect way to make someone’s dream come true,” Carper says of the contest.” The value of the property does not have to be a bar for someone who is younger to take over this place. It would be thrilling for me to hand over the keys to some enthusiastic, capable younger people who might otherwise not have this opportunity.”

Newstead spans 58 acres, much of it open pastures. There are four structures on the property: a cinderblock barn with a tack room and eight animal stalls, a quonset-hut style shed with a garage and four additional stalls, a small cabin, and a 6,000-square-foot 18th-century brick house, all valued at $1.5 million.

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newstead---2-horo

“Back when I was looking for a property, I made a list of all I wanted. I found Newstead and it was like there was an angel on my shoulder. It’s like the house said to me, ‘Where have you been all my life?’” says Carper. “Everything comes to an end, though. Farming is a lot of work, and I’m getting older.”

So what’s it going to take to win the deed to this million-dollar-plus farm? Not much: in fact, no more than 200 words and a $233 entry fee. Entrants must explain why they would like to own and operate Newstead, and Carper will pick her top twenty favorite essays. Three judges otherwise uninvolved in Newstead will then pick a winner.

“The entry fee might seem strange, but 233 is a Fibonacci number. The galaxy is made up of Fibonacci numbers, and so are seashells. Some people think they have powers. I figured it would be good luck,” says Carper.

newstead on the james

For the winner, it certainly would be. If the goal of 7,000 entries is met, Carper doesn’t lose anything on her house and the winner gets to walk away with an additional $100,000 in cash.

The four-legged residents of the farm are also up for grabs, though taking them on is not required. “I can’t be sure yet if the winner will want them,” says Carper. Still, when describing her flock of Katahdin (meat) sheep, and the beauty and demeanor of her black Morgan horses, she beams. “The sheep are a fabulous source of income. And from Northern New York to Florida, and Long Island to California, there are horses I bred.”

The contest ends on September 21, 2016. The entry form and official rules can be accessed here, along with FAQS and additional photographs of the property and sheep.

katahdin sheep

If all goes as planned, what’s in store for Carper after she passes the torch on to the next owner?

“I want to move to a retirement community where I have access to symphony and ballet,” she says. “I want to be close to yoga and tai chi. Maybe I’ll go back to university and study things I don’t yet know!”

Correction: The original article incorrectly referred to a quonset-hut as a concert-hut.

Feeling Lucky? A Short Essay Could Score You a Sweet Debt-Free Farm