After reviewing them, the couple — Randy Silvers and Carolyn Berry — will select 25 finalists and pass the essays along to a panel of three judges — an educator, a hobby farmer and a horse enthusiast — who will select a winner on November 26. They are hoping to receive 5,000 essays, for a total of USD 1 million. “The opening paragraph has to grab you,” Berry said.

“It has to say ‘read me.’ No spelling, writing, grammar mistakes. And they have to spell out how they’ll take care of the farm.”

Berry said she was inspired by an essay contest for the Center Lovell Inn in Maine, a bed-and-breakfast that was won for USD 100 in 1993 by a woman named Janice Sage. Sage wrote a 250-word essay that demonstrated her culinary and hospitality savvy, and her ability to care for the inn.

If the couple does not receive the anticipated number of essays (or something close to it), the couple will list the property, valued at USD 600,000.

“In that case, we would return all the money,” says Berry. Silvers has called the horse farm, a two-hour drive south of Washington, home for nearly 20 years. It dates to the 18th century, and it was nearly barren when he took it over. Now it boasts a three-storey, four-bedroom home, a two-bedroom cottage, a five-stall barn and an air-conditioned woodworking shop.

That is in addition to horse trails, acres upon acres of loamy soil and an endless patchwork of mature hardwood trees bordered by natural streams.

Silvers and Berry have day jobs; he is a construction foreman and she is a director of a tutoring facility. They want to find someone who will cherish the farm just as much. But instead of selling it, they are looking for people who can show them what they could bring to it.


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