The easement was established for the farm near Woodstock in 2007. Steve Aavang, who now owns the Finch Farm, talked about the history of this land during the Preserving the Family Farm meeting, hosted by The Land Conservancy of McHenry County.
John Finch built a log cabin on the farm and lived there until he built the four-square house on the dairy and grain operation.
“He added onto this house three times, and in 1884, he built a wing on the house,” Aavang said. “The house had 11 bedrooms at one time, no bathroom — that was outside — and one kitchen.”
One of the additions included a parlor.
“He was so proud of his parlor,” Aavang said. “When I repainted the house, I patched over 250 nail holes in the house, but not one in the parlor. There was a picture rail around the room, so if you wanted to hang a picture, you would hang it with wires from the picture rail.”
Until the1970s, the farm had been either owner-operated or tenant-operated.
“Josephine inherited the farm, and she lived in Wheaton in the same house she was born in her whole life,” Aavang said. “She went to WheatonCollege and became a professor there.”
Josephine never married, and she had nine nieces and nephews.
“During the ‘70s, farmers were specializing, so Josephine looked in the newspaper and found a real estate agent with an apartment for rent, and that was me,” Aavang said. “She wanted me to rent the house for her, and that’s what I did for 30 years.”
During the time Aavang was responsible for managing the rental of the house, Josephine told him she really wanted the land to always be a farm.
“I recommended she talk to the Land Conservancy, and that’s why there is a conservation easement on the property,” he said.
After the Josephine’s death the farm went into her estate, Aavang showed the property to interested buyers over a two-year period.
“But none of them wanted it because of the conservation easement,” he said about the buyers who were mostly interested in the development opportunities of the land located three miles from Woodstock.
“The inheritors realized they were not going to get the development price for their farm; they would get a farm price,” Aavang said. “So, I made an offer and bought the farm.”
In addition to the tillable acres of the 150-acre farm, the land includes a 25-acre oak savanna that features about 25 mature oaks.
“The dairy cows use to walk down a lane to graze in the woods,” Aavang said.
“These 25 acres represents about 1% of McHenryCounty that is natural,” he said. “The cattle kept all the foreign species off of that area.”
Aavang is focused on preserving this oak savanna.
“This farm has not had a natural fire for about 200 years,” he said. “So, probably in the next couple of years we’ll have an unnatural fire as part of the management.”
The farm owner has seven grandchildren that he soon will be introducing to the special oak savanna by taking them on a walk through the woods.
“I’m trying to set up a farm that some day my children and grandchildren will find economically viable to keep,” Aavang said.
“I am so happy I am the owner of this property,” he said.