Love for the Land: Bill McEwen Reflects on the Decision to Protect his Family Farm.

“The land, to me, is a very sacred thing. It’s a very spiritual thing. I respect it. It is a very special place to us.” – Bill McEwen

All Photos by Nancy Rhoda

It’s been more than a decade since Bill McEwen and his family made one of the defining decisions of their lifetimes. But looking back, Bill says the decision to conserve their 175 acres in Hickman County was one of the easiest.

“I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do,” Bill said, recalling the conversations that led up to the easement. “Fortunately, my three children and my wife were all in tune with that vision. In that respect it wasn’t a big decision at all.”

The McEwen family roots run deep in the soil that The Land Trust for Tennessee will steward in perpetuity. Back in the early 1800s, Bill’s family settled between Centerville and Columbia. More than 150 years later, the old Centerville railroad depot sits on Bill’s land, along with two log cabins that serve as a bed and breakfast.

Today, Bill’s son now farms the land, and his two daughters visit often. It is a place where his grandchildren frolic and play every time they visit. As Bill’s describes words, they cherish it the same way he does.

“The land, to me, is a very sacred thing. It’s a very spiritual thing. I respect it. It is a very special place to us.”

The McEwen farm lies along the historic Natchez Trace Parkway and sets nearby the Duck River, one of the most biologically diverse rivers in North America. The combination provides a unique perspective and sense of solitude that Bill enjoys sharing with guests who visit for extended periods of time.

With no wifi and less than stellar cell phone reception, Bill says that after about two or three days you can feel people disconnect from their outside world and experience the land for all that it is.

“About four of five years ago, one guest said something that I feel really sums up the experience.  She said, ‘You can hear the sound of everything that does not matter disappear out here.'”

The McEwen’s farm was The Land Trust’s first conservation project in Hickman County, and it is a source of satisfaction for Bill that other landowners have since followed suit. But neither honor, nor financial benefits motivated his decision. It simply was the love for the land.

“I strongly believe as time goes on, places like I’ve got, and other places The Land Trust preserves, are going to be few and far between,” Bill said. “In that respect, it was a huge decision to know that when I leave, future generations will have the opportunity to enjoy what I enjoyed.”


As of February 2017, The Land Trust for Tennessee has protected 4,000+ acres in Hickman County.

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