Saving the Family Farm

North Carolina native Bob Hipps fights to save the family farm, which has been in his family since 1942, from commercial developers. He just might win this battle, too.

| November/December 1987

It is an all too familiar tale: An aunt or uncle or grandparent passes away, leaving the family farm to relatives. But the heirs have their own lives to live, can't or don't want to farm and could use some extra cash. So the old homeplace is sold, the proceeds are divided up, and that's that. Life goes on, and the ancestral farm—once the very ground in which the family's roots were anchored—is only a bittersweet recollection, a memory that every so often comes back on a breeze laden with honeysuckle, or perhaps in the sound of a whippoorwill at dusk or in the smell of new-mown hay. 

Losing the family farm. It's a story that has repeated itself countless times since the turn of the century. It is the story of the cutting of the American family's rural umbilical—and of the loss of a national heritage. 

But stories can be rewritten. Enter Bob ("Skip") Hipps. 

Saving the Family Farm

The ad ran on April 2,1987, in the Landrum, South Carolina, News Leader: "Young, strong, intelligent man for sale! I am trying to preserve a living part of American history—a 140-plus-year-old working farm that has changed little in all those years. Virtually everything intact and astonishingly well preserved from the 1840s to date. Handmade tools, quilts, mule drawn farm equipment and personal artifacts from at least six generations of a Polk County pioneer family. I will indenture myself to any person, group or corporation for a period of 10 years (room and board only) in exchange for assistance in the purchasing and opening of The Farm Family Museum. Call for full details, resume and references. I am serious!"

"I thought it was a good idea at the time saving the family farm," says Bob Hipps, his voice revealing the frustration that lingers several months later. "And I really was serious. But the only people I heard from were crazies.

"Some people might say it's Hipps who's crazy. Why would any sane 33-year-old man give up a $30,000-a-year government job, sell all his belongings, move from New Jersey to the remote hills of Cooper's Gap, North Carolina, and even put himself up for sale—all to save a rundown old farm?

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