A couple in the US state of Virginia is offering their 35-acre picturesque farm valued at USD 600,000 for just USD 200 and a 1,000-word flawless essay, spelling out how the contestant will take care of the farm.
Essays for the farm must be postmarked by October 1. 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 USD 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.”
If the couple does not receive the anticipated number of essays (or something close to it), the couple will list the property, valued at USD 600,000.
“In that case, we would return all the money,” Berry was quoted as saying by Washington Post.
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-story, 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.
“It’s his dream,” Berry said of the property. “It’s like he’s living his dream. And it’s sad, but his dream needs to morph into another dream.”
Silvers, 64, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis last year, which has made upkeep of the farm difficult at times.
Silvers and Berry have day jobs — he is a construction foreman; she is a director of a tutoring facility. And they cherish their life of solitude on the farm.
Now they want to find someone who will cherish it just as much. But instead of selling the farm, they are looking for people who can show them what they could bring to it.
Berry said she was inspired by an essay contest for the Center Lovell Inn in Maine, a bed and breakfast that was won for USD 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.
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, program manager of the state Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs.
Essex County Commonwealth’s Attorney Vince Donoghue said that “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 said.