Program Locks In Land For Farming

Bob Roberts
May 17, 2018 - 6:06 pm
Farm Land
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A Cicero native who fell in love with the farm her family owned near far northwest suburban Richmond has signed papers that guarantee the 153-acre spread will remain farmland forever.    

Elena Spiegelhoff's fondest childhood memories are all farm: riding her horse, raising dairy cows, growing and selling melons and corn and skating on the creekthat winds through the farm. 

Her father called the farm sustenance, a place to plant roots. Spiegelhoff wanted to preserve the memories and the farmland itself but could no longer devote the needed time or money.     

Land Conservancy of McHenry County Executive Director Lisa Haderlein knew of a federal initiative, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), that allows owners to sell farmland with the restriction that it remain agricultural. Haderlein said she and Spiegelhoff soon found that no one in Illinois had ever made use of it.      

"We were the guinea pigs to work through all that," Haderlein said.    

On May 1, Spiegelhoff sold the farm to the Chicago-based conservation group Openlands, which intends to re-sell it to Red Buffalo Nursery, which will grow native plants at the farm for public sale.

The farm, on U.S. 12, includes two remnant oak groves, wetlands and a half mile of the creek. Next door is the Hackmatack Wildlife Refuge. 

"I think (my father) would be so proud that this is what happened to be beautiful land, rather than see a strip mall or something else go in," Spiegelhoff said.