Maintaining 22 acres of farmland in the middle of Katy, a city that’s expanding residentially and commercially, is an expensive feat, said Kay Beckendorff-Sword, whose family has owned the land for more than 100 years.

“You have to be able to pay the taxes and liability insurance on it. We live in Harris County, so we support the Harris County Jail and the Harris County health department, the Port of Houston," she said. “[And] everything's growing around us so fast. ... Those types of things are endangering farms all over the country.”

Every day, she said she receives texts, emails and phone calls from developers attempting to purchase the remaining acreage. But her goal is to keep this piece of her family’s legacy for its future generations.

“I want it for my kids,” Beckendorff-Sword said. “I've tried to instill in them their roots in this community. I'm fifth-generation Katy, my kids are sixth, and my grandkids, who are grown now, are seventh. And just to me, that's important.”
The Beckendorff-Swords produce cattle and hay on the family's land within the city of Katy. (Asia Armour/Community Impact)
The past

Beckendorff-Sword Home Place won the 49th Family Land Heritage Award from the Texas Department of Agriculture in October. Its requirements include 100 years of ownership by the same family, land that’s never been leased out and continual agricultural production. Today, they farm hay and produce cattle.

Beckendorff-Sword credits her great grandmother, Margaret Heseltine Davis, for having the foresight to purchase the original 320-acre tract of land in 1922—a decision that imprinted her family’s name in the fabric of the city of Katy, she said.

“I'm also very proud that—with the exception of nine years—this property was owned by women, which is very rare,” she said. “Especially since married women couldn't even own property until 1967 in this state.”

The present

The name "Beckendorff" can be seen on the city’s street signs and a junior high school within Katy ISD. School district officials have said they have some of the “biggest, strongest and deepest” roots in the community, and called them a “Katy pioneer family whose legacy is our future.”

Beckendorff-Sword agreed that her legacy runs deep. She said her ancestors rode horseback to Harris County to get the land set aside for Katy ISD and even established the church she and her husband, Perry Sword, attend still 125 years later.

“Those things to them were just routine goals that they wanted to accomplish for themselves and for their children,” Beckendorff-Sword said. “People just don't have those kinds of goals now, and I'm not talking about building the buildings. I'm talking about actually establishing things that live for over 100 years."
Kay Beckendorff-Sword's husband, Perry Sword, said, "If you eat, you're involved in agriculture." (Asia Armour/Community Impact)
The future

Aside from passing on the land as part of her family's legacy, Beckendorff-Sword also emphasized the role of agriculture to sustain humanity.

“We have to understand that [through] agriculture, we feed the entire world,” she said. “If we don't continue to develop new ways to do that, we're not gonna be able to feed the world or even ourselves."

She said she wants newer generations to understand and respect where their food, clothes and everyday essential items come from.

“They know you go to the grocery store, and there it is on the shelves already produced, already packaged, and you bring it home and prepare it,” Beckendorff-Sword said. “But if we run out of farmland, or we get to where the taxes are so high we can't produce, ... we [will] lose a little bit more every year—and we're not going to have the types of foodstuffs that we think of now in the future.”
Landowner Kay Beckendorff-Sword takes pride in the fact that the land was purchased by her great-grandmother, Margaret Heseltine Davis. (Asia Armour/Community Impact)