As executive director of the Cibolo Nature Center, Carolyn Evans is a steward of both the land and the legacy of Dr. Ferdinand Herff, a pioneering physician who was one of the first settlers in Boerne.
“Herff Farm not only represents our past, but our future,” Evans, who is a descendant of Herff, said. “It was the site of one of the first agriculture operations in Kendall County. Today, as an education center, it offers an opportunity to help modern Texans reconnect to the land and understand the complex, vital relationship between natural resources and our lives.”
Under her leadership, the Friends of Cibolo Wilderness, Inc. enacted a conservation easement, held by the Texas Agricultural Land Trust, on the 60-acre farm located in the riparian area of Cibolo and Menger creeks. The landscape is classic, quintessential Texas Hill Country.
The holding is the original homestead of Herff, a German immigrant who practiced in San Antonio, but maintained a second residence and thriving farm in Kendall County. Eventually, Herff amassed 10,000 acres of farm and ranch land. The property has been divided over time.
“Conserving Herff Farm fits into the overall goals of the Nature Center,” Evans said. “We advocate for conservation. Now, thanks to our experience with a conservation easement, we have another land stewardship tool that we can share with landowners and the public.”
The conservation easement is the pinnacle of a project that began in 1999 when the Nature Center staff board realized the property, which is directly across Cibolo Creek, was abandoned. Its location in proximity to the Nature Center and in the creek’s riparian zone made its acquisition a top priority.
“The farm was ripe for development,” Evans said. “We knew a development would irreparably damage the watershed and the overall atmosphere of the Nature Center and adjoining preserve.”
As the board was working to acquire the property, the population of Boerne exploded, increasing by 87 percent between 1997 and 2014. As the population grew so did the demand for land pushing the price higher.
“The rate of fragmentation throughout Kendall County increased along with the population making our efforts even more urgent,” Evans said. “The board of directors went through hell and brimstone to raise the money to purchase the property.”
Understanding the realities of the non-profit funding and the ever-rising value of land, the board wanted to protect their efforts.
“Funding a non-profit isn’t always easy,” Evans said. “We knew that future generations of board members and staff might be tempted to sell off portions of the land to fund the work, but if Herff Farm disappeared one-quarter acre at a time it would change the character of the land—and dismantle 20 years of effort.”
While protecting their efforts motivated the board to consider a conservation easement, it was the opportunity to protect the culture, the health and the history of the region represented by this land that prompted the board to engage in the actual process.
“Enacting a conservation easement takes time, serious thought and soul searching,” Evans said. “You’re trying to look in the crystal ball and imagine what life will be like in the future. It can seem daunting, but what can be better than forever protecting a piece of land?”