(Let's Go Green!)
It began when talking with Miss Duff about pups, gardens and canning tomatoes. Miss Duff, is my neighbor three houses down. She’s lifelong friends with Thurman and another valuable resource for all things planting, farming and almanacs. In the course of our conversation she asked if I’d signed on for the Green Belt, a concept brand new to me.
Best I recalled from my brother’s karate classes back when we were kids, green belts came somewhere after yellow, yet somewhere before brown, but I was pretty certain Miss Duff wasn’t talking karate. Turns out I was right. Miss Duff was talking the Greenbelt Law otherwise called the Agriculture, Forest and Open Space Act of 1976 enacted to keep farm land farmin’ (or as the law states: to maintain farms, forests and open spaces to reduce urbanization across Tennessee). You qualify if you have 15 acres and are using your land for agricultural purposes. The benefits to farmers come at property tax time as your property is appraised on "use" as opposed to fair market value.
Yesterday was the deadline to qualify for 2015. First stop: Assessor’s Office where a bevy of friendly, helpful folks walked me through the process, asked me a few questions about my land, answered several of my own and helped me fill out an application, all while explaining how “rollback taxes” would work should I come off the Greenbelt someday to sell my property or use my land for something else.
Next stop: Trustee’s Office (upstairs) where I paid a late fee for having only learned about the Greenbelt Law on the last day to qualify. (There's a 30 day window after property taxes are due, thank goodness, otherwise I'd be doing this next year...A small price to pay for the difference in my property taxes next year, so I was told.)
Next stop: Register of Deeds Office (back downstairs). This is the office run by “Bev” Spickard who, when he’s not registering our property is a Class “A” marksman and certified instructor for gun carry permits. This is one colorful character -- who, among others, has helped train me in target shooting. Somehow you don’t mind putting an official’s name on a check when you have met them personally. “Bev” is a hoot, but he wasn't in his office this day; but his fine staff was there to help take care of me.
Final stop: Back to the basement level of the courthouse where my Greenbelt tour ended. While making many stops to complete all these tasks, my friendly Assessor was pulling up info for me to take with me so next time someone asks “me” about the Greenbelt, I’ll be as helpful as this office (and Miss Duff) had been for me. (They also sent me home with some lovely parting gifts like a nifty green pen with the number of the office on it in case I ever needed to call back.)
It's official. I'm a farmer.
And lovin' life in back in my home town.