Letter: Sage and Abby Devlin

Editor: In 2018 we made a pact as siblings to move to Rockland, our family-owned farm—we called it #Rockland 2020. Rockland has been in our family for generations, we grew up visiting our grandparents here, so it is sacred ground to us. 

As two service industry veterans, working hard and working with people is not foreign to us. However, we could not anticipate the challenges this new venture would bring when we committed to help our parents and family take care of the property. Since our move towards the end of 2019, we’ve witnessed the White’s Ferry Saga. We’ve been here giving our input, but up until now have remained mostly invisible. 

Sage has started a small sustainable flower farm, Far Bungalow Farm, that grows native species and sells to florists and residents in the area. Abby raises chickens, runs two campsites on the property and works in NoVa’s craft beverage industry, promoting locally sourced ingredients. In our “free time” we grow vegetables, forage, weave, cook, drink beer, and you better believe we watched a bunch of dumb TV during the winter nights of 2020 lockdown.

We feel that we are stewards to Rockland. Acknowledging our privilege, we feel it’s our responsibility to pay forward this incredible blessing. Our Rockland 2020 plan was to work with our family to make the farm a shared space that produces goods that everyone can enjoy, repay our debts to those enslaved on the property, and preserve the beauty and health of the Potomac and Piedmont. 

We have grown up with White’s Ferry, seen it evolve, enjoyed riding it, and appreciated watching it’s back and forth. We know that Whites Ferry is important to Virginia and Maryland residents. 

Rockland farm is asking to be paid fair rent from White’s Ferry owners for the ongoing use of our land—just 50 cents per vehicle so that we can sustain our family business and farm. This is land that could be used for lots of other things, but we love that it’s been used as such a historic and cherished utility.  

It’s been discouraging and confusing for us to witness such opposition to the basic principle of paying rent for the use of property. We’ve watched as our neighbors’ lose their family farms while predatory business people swoop in and pay what a farmer has no choice but to accept. We don’t want that to happen to Rockland.

There are so many layers to this story, more than can be expressed in any one letter or article, so, we ask you all to get acquainted with the full story behind the Whites Ferry landing and to get to know us—the millennial generation at Historic Rockland Farm with our own dreams and plans for its future.

Sage and Abby Devlin

12 thoughts on “Letter: Sage and Abby Devlin

  • 2021-04-19 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for posting this. People need to understand how important it is when a family actively wants to keep farmland preserved for future generations. Loudoun’s farmland is disappearing for a variety of reasons–one of which is that when the older generations die, the family is often forced to sell land to accommodate beneficiaries. Our family has worked in another state to preserve a large farm (where tobacco was grown for generations) in a conservation easement so that it cannot be divided or developed. Your choice to keep it in ag use is even more commendable so I wish you great success with your businesses.
    Fifty cents per vehicle seems very reasonable. I can tell you that many in Loudoun don’t appreciate the abuse of eminent domain–especially in this instance. As another poster commented at one point, White’s Ferry is not a significant source of transportation, it’s really a tourist attraction.
    Stand strong and know that you have support in the community–even if it’s not as vocal as those who disparage you for your choices.
    ***Chuck Kuhn–please pay these landowners .50 per vehicle. You have done a commendable job in your ongoing conservation efforts so please continue with the good will and offer fair compensation to the family.

    • 2021-04-21 at 5:43 pm

      Loco Bag Lady – you had made the comment “As another poster commented at one point, White’s Ferry is not a significant source of transportation, it’s really a tourist attraction.”

      Before it was shut down on 12/28/20, there were a very large number of people on both sides of the river who used the ferry on a daily basis to go to work, ride horses, run errands, etc. I used the ferry 5-6 times a week and my one way commute was 12.5 miles. It is now over 30 miles one way. So, not only am I putting more than double the miles on my car (not to mention more wear and tear), I am also spending much more on gas. I know of one person who commutes from Poolesville to Warrenton for work and several who live in Leesburg and work in Gaithersburg. Not a fun commute before the ferry closed, but now it’s a nightmare time and mileage wise. Also, I’ve noticed a rise in accidents on Rt. 15 due to the increased traffic from the ferry being closed. So, it is definitely not a “tourist attraction”. It truly was a critical mode of transportation for so many in this area.

      • 2021-04-22 at 9:21 am

        Kahuna–you said, “there were a very large number of people on both sides of the river who used the ferry on a daily basis to go to work, ride horses, run errands, etc.”
        Define “very large number”.
        In the accounts I have read, the numbers range from 600-800 cars per day. In the big picture of metro area traffic, this is not a significant number. Is it inconvenient for drivers? Yes, but does this situation merit using eminent domain to satisfy 600-800 vehicles per day? I would argue not.

        • 2021-04-22 at 9:54 pm

          The “very large number” is the local area here, not the general DMV. The ferry being closed increases 600-800 vehicles on Rt. 15. between Point of Rocks and Leesburg. That is huge, given 15 is one lane each way and Lucketts Elementary is back in session. I now have to drive that route 5-6 times a week.

  • 2021-04-19 at 7:19 pm

    This is the same farm once owned by Ida Lee. In case no one has said thank you, lately, for all of the land your family gave the public, thank you. And thank you for letting the ferry run for many many decades gratis. Times change and places like Rockland need income too. There are not many, if any, historic treasures like Rockland left in the county. Maybe it is time the public supports the efforts of a new generation trying to preserve Rockland. $.50 from a $5.00 ticket is a very low ask.

  • 2021-04-19 at 8:56 pm

    Sage and Abby: I hope you continue to stand your ground. If you OWN the property, then nobody, especially the Government and a bunch of whining people who think the Government should take your land from you because they whine the loudest. White’s Ferry’s operators got a great deal for many years and it is absolutely your right to ask for fair market value or any price you set, that’s up to you. If you don’t want to rent the land at all- don’t. People will have to find another way and something else to complain about.
    Always keep this in mind: The people who complain the loudest are usually in the minority. More people agree with you than you probably realize.

  • 2021-04-20 at 8:37 am

    See, herein lies the problem! You are only telling 1/2 the story. Sure, $0.50 is not a lot of money in the scheme of things but there are 3 problems with your pitty party:
    1. Your family and the sacred ground in question were already condemned by Loudoun County in 1871. The only reason this is an issue now is that a judge ruled they can’t definitively determine WHERE that stretch of a couple of feet of land is exactly. White’s Ferry has run since 1871 under the assumption they were ok too. The previous $5/annum was paid for use of a field to anchor the original over-head cable from the old-style ferry. This cable was discontinued in the ’80s, but the White’s Ferry owners continued to pay the $5/annum despite Rockland Farm refusing to cash the check.
    2. It has already been suggested to and rejected by Rockland Farm to set up their own booth and collect any fee they want. They can also begin paying the taxes on that income, maintain the sacred property over on that side of the river, provide and maintain the light source and signage, as well as provide land, debris, and snow removal as needed.
    3. $0.50 is NOT a lot of money, however, the final point is that the only “deal” the Devlin’s will agree to is a revokable agreement. So, it may be $0.50 today, the ferry re-opens, and then in 2 months they decide it’s sacred again and want to close it down again. The Devlin’s have made no effort to make this a long-term, standing agreement in any way. They have been offered nearly a million dollars for the same small strip of the landing, they have been offered an annual payment for a long-term easement, and they have been offered an amount unknown to me for the whole property. All have been rejected, and they have been wholly unreasonable at every attempt to settle this in a logical and truly fair way.
    So, take your “sacred” BS and stop with the lies. Either tell the whole story or go back to NJ/NY.

    • 2021-04-20 at 7:56 pm

      You sound bitter because you do not have any leverage here. Their property, their price, their rules. Deal with it or find another way.

    • 2021-04-22 at 4:30 am

      What’s with the rage, WFKEF? I take it you the ferry owner?

      If the land was condemned, it must be 100% unambiguous, as to when, where, and how this occurred. There were many ferries along the Potomac so what landing was supposedly condemned? You obviously failed to (and could not) prove this to the judge and lost in court. You were unlawfully trespassing for decades and, as a result, were told by the court to stop and pay the family for additional damage to the property. WORSE, you don’t have exclusive rights to operate a ferry on behalf of the public. Such a business opportunity needs to be bid on by interested parties willing to charge a reasonable fee and provide a sound service (having your cable break is a public safety matter). By a quick read of the opinion, anyone can understand the court got it right. Pay the half a buck.

    • 2021-04-24 at 2:07 pm

      You are correct, WFKEF. The last thing Loudoun needs is 2 incompetent Yankees who have nothing better to do that to set up an extortion racket against the commuters and operators of White’s Ferry. Funny how the Rocklands are not offering to give back the taxpayer money from 1871. Nor can they identify the spot and provide an easement for the land they claim the agreement involved.

      Everybody should boycott anything related to Rockland Farms. If radical Leftists want to invade and play farmer, let them sink or swim. The real question is how many permit violations have they mustered by having “glamping outings” on their property? And is anybody in the LoCo gov’t giving these privileged whiners special considerations?

      I am not a general fan of eminent domain. But this 200 square feet of shoreland is the most ideal land for eminent domain in my nearly 20 years in Loudoun. Give them fair market value -> all of about $500 for it.

  • 2021-04-20 at 12:23 pm

    Abby & Sage,
    You cover a few different topics in your letter. I support your position as owners of the property and appreciate what you have and are doing for Loudoun County.

    I have to take exception with one item.

    “Our Rockland 2020 plan was to work with our family to make the farm a shared space that produces goods that everyone can enjoy, repay our debts to those enslaved on the property, and preserve the beauty and health of the Potomac and Piedmont.”

    Almost 160 years later, you or the rest of us DO NOT have any debt to former generations. ZERO.

  • 2021-04-23 at 4:26 am

    The daily-use number of cars per day has increased, while reporting in the news, to support the false narrative that this is a transportation issue. It is a tourist folly and cash cow. The number has climbed 200 since half-a-buck Chuck started strong-arming the county puppets to get involved. Maybe an automatic car counter should have been used decades ago to support the now ballooning claim of use and, of course, to report actual income to the taxing authorities.

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