The Hoffmann Farm preserved forever
It was 1950, and Elena Spiegelhoff was in sixth grade when her parents purchased a dairy farm in Richmond, Illinois.
It was a place where the Hoffmann family could escape the noise and congestion of the suburb of Cicero. The family spent summers on the farm where Elena recalls planting a melon patch with her Dad, and exploring the oak woods. “I had a pony and we would ride around the edge of the fields, through the woods and over the creek,” said Spiegelhoff. “Every time we got to the creek, the pony would stop abruptly, flinging me into the water.”
After her parents passed away, her brother Eugene Jr. set up his own chiropractic practice on a corner of the farm. He had a passion for miniature trains and built a track around the farm, inviting neighbors to come and take a ride. When her brother passed away, Elena was left with the farm and she began thinking about its future. She thought about selling it, hoping that a new owner would not develop the land. Part of the farm runs along Route 12, prime target for commercial developers. Would a future owner appreciate the natural, wild places on the farm?
“Elena contacted The Land Conservancy in 2014, asking how she could preserve her farm,” said Linda Balek, Land Protection Specialist. “She knew she couldn’t continue to own it for much longer, but wondered if there was a way it could be preserved. It was very important to Elena to create a legacy for her family.”
A conservation easement was the best way to accomplish Elena’s goals. The Land Conservancy worked with Elena to apply for federal dollars through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ACEP (Agricultural Conservation Easement Program). ACEP provides partial funds to purchase the easement. Openlands, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Chicago, found remaining funds. Elena’s dream of preserving her family farm turned into a reality. TLC is grateful to all of the partners who worked hard to make it happen, but most of all to Elena, for her foresight, patience and love.
Above: "People need places to grow food and places to enjoy nature. That's not going to change." - Elena Spiegelhoff (Photo credit: Openlands)
Below: The Hoffmann Family Conservation Easement preserves 153 acres of agricultural land and wildlife habitat.
More about the ACEP: This is the first time the federal program to purchase easements on farmland has been used in McHenry County, and the first time that a non-profit organization used the program to preserve farmland in Illinois. Once the easement is in place, the owner may continue to farm or lease the land, sell it, or pass it on to their heirs. Now that TLC is an official “entity” able to receive funds through this program, we look forward to working with other families who wish to preserve their farms.