Celebrating the Thomas Family Farm and Stone Barn
When asked Harold Thomas, the Thomas family patriarch, said “Doing this (conservation easement) is a good feeling; you bet it is.” The Thomas family lands can be described as a unique place where both our natural and cultural heritage will be preserved in perpetuity. The 180 acre prairie farm with its prominent stone barn provides a pleasant reminder of our agrarian history as well as habitat for rare and declining prairie species once common in the area. The Thomas lands are within a 40,000 acre project boundary known as the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area. This unique landscape scale project is located in eastern Iowa and western Dane Counties aims to protect grasslands and the agricultural landscape of more than 40,000 acres. It is one of the best sites in the upper Midwest for protecting prairie remnants, rare prairie species, and area sensitive species such as grassland birds. One of the goals of the project is to protect and maintain the area’s predominantly rural agrarian landscape and economy, thus keeping important agricultural grasslands open and preventing the unplanned fragmentation and conversion of these lands into residential and commercial uses. By signing their conservation easement on March 10, 2005, the Thomas family took the important step to preserve their family’s farm legacy that began over 150 years earlier.
Their goals for the project were simple; first, to preserve the family farm and second, to restore their magnificent historic stone barn. With the financial support of the USDA Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, and Wisconsin’s Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program the Conservancy was able to purchase the conservation easement from the Thomas family. The easement ensures the farm will remain a farm, and the proceeds from its sale will fund a restored roof for the historic barn. The Conservancy received important technical and financial support from the National Trust for Historic Preservations Preservation Services Fund and the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.