Roper Farm Facing Possible Changes.

Published 11:25 am Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A family farm in Roper, NC is undergoing possible changes.

Jack Spruill has been working on donating the Spruill Farm to an appropriate conservation owner.

A statement of purpose on goes into more details about the planned project located at Spruill Loop Road, NC State Road, 1318, Roper, NC 27970.

“We are deeply committed to a perpetual conservation and low-impact access program for our family land on the south shore of Albemarle Sound. This has very special meaning for us. For all these years, its farmers, their families and untold visitors have taken great pride in the diversified crops growing in its rich soil, savored the dusty smell of peanuts being harvested, and reminisced and shaded under its pecan trees,” reads a portion of a background passage on the Spruill Farm.

The statement of purpose for the farm notes the possibilities for restoration, public water access, and natural and cultural history education.

Three teams of University of Georgia Students followed up on an earlier presentation by appearing at the Maritime Museum in downtown Plymouth on April 26 for further discussion of their work with interested audience members

Ty Murray, president of Green-Leaf-Solutions LLC, was in charge of all aspects of the work being done by the senior engineering students at the Ga. Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  He acted as a project advocate and graded the students for their work on their capstone design projects.

The Torchwood team focused on the land development aspect of the project. Holzbeton Engineering concentrated on the structures portion of the farm. Atlanta Connection Engineering discussed the site plan of the project.

Mallory Chapman led off Torchwood Engineering’s presentation with team members Janna San Juan, Heidi Vreeland, and Alex Levitt.

Chapman discussed wetlands restorations in Torchwood’s presentation.

“The Army Corp of Engineers defines a wetland as having three components.  Wetlands have hydrology, hydric soil, and wetland vegetation. The Hydrology requirement means that the water table must be within twelve inches of the ground surface for five to twelve percent of the growing season,” said Chapman.

Chapman noted that Spruill Farms lacks this hydrology component.

“Spruill Farm is historically a wetland. In the early 1900s, it began being tilled for agricultural purposes. The ditches have been dug on the western portion of the site,” said Chapman.

Chapman noted a field crown was created between the two ditches dug on the site. The elevation of the ground was raised in the middle.

“This was so the farm could be drained properly to the edges of the ditches.”

Chapman listed favorable environmental impacts, biodiversity, improved water quality, and generated income through wetland banking as some of the benefits of wetland restoration at Spruill Farm.

Various possibilities for the structural protection of the shoreline around Spruill Farm were discussed in the Torchwood Presentation. Living shoreline techniques like riparian buffers and rock sills were mentioned as some possible remedies.

The Torchwood members faced an important question from an audience member:

“What exactly are you proposing for the project you mentioned? What is the best approach?

A Torchwood team member answered:

“I would hope that what you would do is not think of these as alternatives, but think of these as phases. The first phase would be to be start planting more trees because at some point, sea levels will rise.”

Putting rock sills in front of the existing bulkhead at Spruill Farm was also mentioned as a good idea.
The Holzebeton Engineering team focused on public education, and telling the public effectively about the design of Spruill Farm.
“We used a software modeling program that laid out different parts of our project. It was helpful for what we were trying to do,” said Nathan Bruce, a Holzebeton Engineering team member.
Bruce mentioned a shed that was planned to be turned into a schoolhouse to be shown what schooling was like back during the time period.
The Holzebeton team also incorporated other structures into their projects.
“We are going to be designing a bunkhouse and research center structure. We spent the most time on what. We think it will be the main attraction for the site,” said Bruce.
Bruce mentioned incorporating LEED guidelines into the project. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design.
“We want to lead by example with sustainable engineering,” said Bruce.
The educational site included a variety of environmentally-friendly construction features. These features were spread throughout the site.
“One of the big things that we did was incorporated these special kind of panels. These panels are a piece of wood with four inches of foam and then another piece of wood. They help lower waste during construction and help insulate the structures and make them more energy efficient,” said Patricia Cruz, another Holzbeton team member.
Holzbeton team members also were faced with a question at the end of their presentation:
“What would you say is the most important goal of your accomplishments?”
One team member commented:
“I am going to say the third goal which I am going to currently explain. Achieving environmental sustainability and energy efficiency was very integral to this project.
Nathan Bruce offered a different response.
“This project is supposed to one that creates a path for others to fall behind. As you let people know we are trying to create sustainable designs here, the educational part becomes the most important.”
Atlanta Connection Engineering worked on the site plan of Spruill Farm.
Aspects of the team’s plan involved an aquaponics facility, an updating of the nearby roads with a parking lot,an organic farm, and a walking trail through wetlands areas.
Conor Campbell discussed the proposed aquaponics facility on the site.
“Fish are kept in an enclosed room for six weeks. They are screened for disease. They are then moved in nursery tank where their environment is changed. They are then put into one of the fuller large tanks,” said Campbell
Fish are kept in separate rooms to stop disease from spreading.
“There are some unique features in aquaponics. It is very suitable for teaching children about topics like animal husbandry, chemistry, and biology,” said Campell
There are requirements for operating a aquaponics research facility such as a license from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and proof of permission from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
The costs of initially starting an aquaponics facility would remain high. However those costs would be reduced as profits come in.
The merits of having a festival area for various events were discussed. The team members mentioned the need to not ruin the aesthetics of the area.
Each team members’ presentations were detailed and comprehensive in their attempts to address how to make the Spruill Farm Project a reality.
Jack Spruill explained that the Spruill Farm Project still has to go through more stages.
“I was impressed with the diversity of the people that are pushing on this project. Many people that helped on the project were not able to make it,” said Spruill.
Spruill said the success of the project depends on recruitment.
He noted the major issue in his mind was to find a lead organization to receive the donation.He also mentioned the possibility of forming a non-profit.
Spruill mentioned that his project can still be funded despite the tough economic times.
“There is a still a lot of money being committed all the time to taking care of land and taking care of coastal places. We have just have find a lead organizations and a few leaders to put all that together and articulate it to funding sources,” he said.