This family farm story needs to begin sometime in the late 1800’s.
Great Grandparents William H. and Susannah Weybright began buying 120-acre parcels for each of their children. When it was Grandfather Charles’s turn for his gift, this parcel in Benton Township, Elkhart County became available. The land was largely wooded, with a residence and a sandy rise near a stream, which continues to offer arrowheads to the alert and sharp-eyed visitor. By the late 1910’s or early 1920’s, Grandpa Charley Weybright had cleared enough woodland to have 80 acres to feed his small herd of Polled Durham cattle, hogs, and some chickens. Charley jumped on the new and progressive idea of “hybrid seed.” He convinced skeptical Purdue University seed specialists to let him try some hybrid seed corn on his Northern Indiana Farm. That venture became very successful.
And so began Charley’s dedication to soil health, conservation, and land stewardship. In 1918, Charley and his wife Nettie registered the farm name “Welcome Home” with the State of Indiana. In 1930, Charley entered 26.6 acres of his woodland into the new Indiana DNR “Classified Forest” program. A more recent addition brought the protected forest to 36 acres. This woodland has a natural spring-fed stream running through it and a portion of this woodland is wetland.
While the tax incentive of the classified forest program was appealing to Charley, his plans for additional protection and conservation of this farm were shortened by his untimely death. Charley’s son George, and wife Rachel, began their stewardship of this farm in 1938, with an emphasis on service to others. They started a long and rewarding relationship with people and the land, welcoming many individuals and families to this homestead to work as hired hands or to help these friends find a place in life and community. Some folks stayed for a short time, others stayed longer and became integral and instrumental forces, making this farmland and homestead a haven for family, relatives, and others. George and Rachel’s desire to use this farm as a special, desirable, and loved space continued evolving as they discussed future scenarios with their children. This desire brought them to create a Revocable Trust, which in turn, allowed their children to participate, discuss, and make consensual plans for the future of the farmland, woodland, wetland, and waterway. Over the last seventy years, there have been many family discussions, which elevated the family desire to protect the “openness” of this property. As subsequent family generations expanded and shared their joy of this farm and ecstasy of life on this farm, it became apparent that an Agriculture Conservation Easement was the family's preferred choice to protect it. In addition, this easement fit into the increasing awareness of our Earth’s diminishing resources concurrent with expanding need for a variety of human food production options.
What does the future hold?
Population explosion continues at an ever-increasing rate worldwide and locally. Pressure to build houses and commercial buildings strangles our Earth’s soil ecosystem. The same pressures are ever-present to clear woodlands, diminishing that ecosystem's ability to provide for and purify our water resources and oxygen for human lungs.
Our Earth’s soil and forests are the origin of life and ultimately the resource for subsistence of life. Preventing fertile land and forested land from residential and commercial development is essential if we are to give future generations a chance of having the means and resources to sustain life.
This “open space” saved from concrete and steel development is, and will be, essential for the creation and expansion of non-industrial foodstuffs in the near future. Undeveloped fertile soil is needed now, and there will be increased need in the future for expanded varieties of plant foodstuffs for human food. The Welcome Home farm acreage will be very useful in filling a critical need.
If there is an overarching responsibility of humans while we are on this Earth, it is to take care of our Earth and thus each other.
Written by Garry D. Weybright, Land Steward with a Passion for Conservation