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August 9, 2002
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The Item
Land donation will preserve 668 acres on Lynches River

By Matt Schafer
Special to The Messenger
August 9, 2002

LAMAR - The one thing God did not give Rivers and Evelyn Scarborough in 62 years of marriage was children. Now, in their golden years they were faced with a large, successful farm and no heirs to leave their land.

"We tried, but the Lord just saw fit for us to not have children," Evelyn said.

Kenny Segars of Hartsville, a board member of the Pee Dee Land Trust, and Ken Driggers of the Palmetto Conservation League look out over the Lynches River while touring a portion of the land donated to the land trust by Rivers and Evelyn Scarborough of Lamar.
The Scarboroughs owned the Egg and I farm in Lamar, one of the largest independent egg producers in the world. When they sold it earlier this year, the farm had a million chickens producing 10,000 cases of eggs a day, which translates to roughly 1.6 billion eggs a year.

They recently sold the egg producing part of the Darlington County farm to a Japanese agricultural company.

On Wednesday, the remaining land was donated to the Pee Dee Land Trust, a private, non-profit agency that works to conserve land throughout the Pee Dee area.

The Scarboroughs gave away 668 acres, some of which runs along the Lynches River adjacent to Lee County. Some of the land had been in their families since South Carolina was first settled under King George of England.

"My life expectancy is about six more years, that's not a lot of time," Rivers quipped.

The land had been farmed, hunted on, fished in and camped on for generations, and the Scarboroughs wanted to see it continued to be used in that manner.

So the couple contacted The Palmetto Conservation Foundation, which after many conversations, brokered a life estate donation to the trust, a recently formed preservation society. The donation means the Scarboroughs can continue to live and work on the land the rest of their lives. Afterward, the land will be preserved in perpetuity with the remaining interest in the property passed on to the foundation.

For Darlington, Lee and Sumter County residents, the donation helps to preserve the quality of the Lynches River and limits development upstream.

"For Lee County residents, it will mean more public access to the river, and it will help provide a buffer zone between farming and the river," said Ken Driggers, executive director of The Palmetto Conservation Foundation.

Driggers said his organization steered the Scarboroughs to the land trust because Palmetto Conservation promotes local management of land. "I think it's something we need. If we don't take care of our open spaces, we're not going to have any," Driggers said.

Several people at Wednesday's announcement toured a portion of the property along the Darlington County side of the river's banks. Kenny Segars of Hartsville, a member of the Pee Dee Land Trust Board of Directors, said he could not remember seeing the river's water level as low as it is right now as he looked out across the slow-moving water.

The Lynches River is on the Sierra Club's list of Special Places in South Carolina. The donated land is sandwiched between Lee State Park upstream and Lynches River State Park downstream.

The donation ensures the protection of a varied landscape of deep swamp forests and dark waters. "This river corridor provides excellent habitat for fish such as redbreast and wildlife including river otters, white-tailed deer and wood ducks," said Lynn Quattro of the S.C. Depart-ment of Natural Resources.

"It also holds historic significance as a hideout for slaves during the Civil War and as the site of the state's last duel."

Knowing the land would be taken care of was a great relief for the Scarboroughs.

"It feels great. I get up every morning and I'm like a bird I'm so light on my feet, tweet, tweet, tweet," Rivers said.

"Now it is my time to go where I want to go when I want to do it," he said. "Since we don't have any children, I wanted to make sure that this land stays as it is after we are gone. While we are here, I can farm some of it, rent some out and use the land in my new free time."

The Pee Dee Land Trust is a member of the Palmetto Conservation Foundation's land trust assistance program.

"This will be a great addition to protecting these resources in Darlington County," said John Alford, a Pee Dee Land Trust advisor. "This is the first life estate conservation transaction we have received - it just illustrates how these voluntary conservation methods can be shaped to fit individual property owners."

Rivers Scarborough said that after considering all the options, he feels the life estate method the best for him, his wife and their property. "This land will be here long after we are gone, and I feel good knowing that future generations will see it just as it is now," he said.

The couple has lived all their lives near the modest home on their property on Lynches River Road in Darlington County.

Her family owned a farm less than a mile away at Carter's Crossroads.

"We couldn't get around as good back then, and there weren't a lot of people around, and I kept her from leaving and meeting someone else," Rivers said.

They started the egg farm from 1,000 chickens and kept it growing out of necessity. In the early days a lot of the work was done by hand. And after many hours of sorting and cleaning eggs, Evelyn had enough.

"If we ever get big enough we need a name, we're calling it the Egg and I farm," Rivers said. "Meaning the egg and her, because she had done so much work."

After 62 years he still calls her his beautiful young lady, and she quietly stands by his side.

"He's the real talker. They say women are really the talkers, but he is," Evelyn explains as she holds his hand.

As the reporters and conservation officials leave, Rivers takes another look around his land, knowing his family's tradition of caring for the land will continue.

E-mail comments on the article "Land donation will preserve 668 acres on Lynches River" to Carpenter King.

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