Category Archives: Midwest

Tipping for Farmland

Imagine an evening of cocktails and nibbles with fellow farmland enthusiasts. That’s what happened on a frigid evening in Chicago when American Farmland Trust fans braved the cold to save farmland.

(L to R): Chef George Bumbaris, Anita Zurbrugg, Janine MacLachlan, David Sviland, Chef Sarah Stegner

Food star Sarah Stegner, chef/partner at Prairie Fire in Chicago, has been a tireless advocate for local food. She’s a co-founder of Chicago’s Green City Market, widely considered one of the best in the nation for its focus on producers who farm with care for the environment and for setting higher standards for the entire region. I first got to know Sarah years ago when I served on Green City’s organizing board.

When she invited me to serve as guest bartender at Prairie Fire there was no question about which cocktail I’d make and which not-for-profit would get my tips.

My cocktail would be a Midwest Manhattan made with Templeton Rye, a craft distillery in Iowa using a prohibition-era recipe and some Michigan cherries. I had met president Scott Bush at the Des Moines farmers market where he was selling rye whiskey barbecue sauce created by one of his partners Michael Killmer. Delicious discoveries like this were highlights of my road trip across eight Midwestern states to research my upcoming book, Seasonal Markets of the Heartland.

It was during my research that I also met a number of the dynamic team members behind American Farmland Trust.  I had known supporters of the organization for some time, but got more enamored when I learned about the work they do to help farmland stay in agriculture and stem the loss of land to development. The effervescent Anita Zurbrugg traveled from DeKalb, Illinois, to join the festivities. And Chef Sarah made sandwiches from Tallgrass Beef and rye bread custom baked by Bennison’s Bakery.

All in all, it was a convivial group with a passion for farms and an easy way to help engage others in supporting local farms and food.

Midwest Manhattan

Templeton Rye is the perfect golden whiskey here, set off by cherries from my home state of Michigan, steeped in a boozy concoction created by Prairie Fire mixologist Daniel Sviland.

Anita Zurbrugg and Janine MacLachlan get a lesson from mixologist David Sviland.

Makes one

1½ jiggers Templeton Rye small batch

1 jigger sweet vermouth

1 squirt (about two teaspoons) boozy cherry juice

3 boozy Michigan cherries

whisper of bitters

Put a handful of ice into a cocktail shaker, then add Templeton Rye, sweet vermouth and boozy cherry juice.  Shake well, then pour into a glass. Top with bitters and add boozy cherries. Of course, you can vary the proportions according to your taste.

Boozy cherry juice

Stir together equal parts brandy, sweet vermouth, maraschino syrup and simple syrup. The amount will vary depending on how many cherries you want to steep, but a half cup each should be enough for a several cups of cherries. Add pitted cherries, cover and refrigerate for four days or up to six weeks.

How to make simple syrup:  boil equal parts sugar and water until slightly thickened, about five minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.

About the Author: Janine MacLachlan is a food writer, farm groupie and author of Seasonal Markets of the Heartland, to be published in spring 2012 by University of Illinois Press.  She’s been devoted to local food for years, working with Slow Food and Chicago’s Green City Market to pave the way for small farmers to connect with eager eaters. Visit her blog at or follow her on Twitter.

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A Gift of Farmland Becomes a Legacy of Love

A Legacy of Love

The Love Farm was featured in the 1996 Spring Issue of American Farmland.

In 1995, Owen and Ellen Love donated their 660-acre farm outside Climax, Michigan to American Farmland Trust. The Loves  believed deeply in protecting their valuable farmland for future generations and wished to have their decision to protect their farm provide an example for others and eventually serve as a catalyst for other farmland protection initiatives. Speaking of her husband’s commitment to their cause, Ellen Love remarked around the time of their gift, “You can’t always talk folks out of selling good farmland to developers. He wanted to show people here in Michigan what can be done to save farms. Make a believer out of ‘em.”

After both Owen and Ellen passed on, we stewarded the farm, renting it to the Loves long-time farm tenant. In 2010, the farm was sold, subject to a conservation easement, to two young brothers in the area who will continue to operate the farm for grain production. In accordance with the Loves’ wishes,  the Owen and Ellen Love Family Farmland Protection Fund was established to be used for assisting in the permanent protection of other farmland in Michigan. The Fund secures the legacy of Owen and Ellen Love and their vision of providing an example and the financial wherewithal for others to protect valuable farmland.

Available to Michigan communities and land trusts, the Fund will offer loans to bridge a time gap between an opportunity to protect farmland and the availability of other public or private funding to purchase land in fee or an agricultural conservation easement.

“We are proud our parents chose to preserve the Love family farm for agricultural use, and also provide the means for others to save agricultural land,” say Bob Love and Edith Pestrue, the Love’s children. “The Owen and Ellen Love Family Farmland Protection Fund will play an essential role in supporting projects that protect the productive use of agricultural land in the State of Michigan.”

American Farmland Trust has worked with other similarly motivated landowners around the country on legacy gifts to fulfill their desires and commitments to protect farm and ranch lands for future productive use and to facilitate farmland protection initiatives. If you are interested in discussing such opportunities, please contact Jen Small at 518-581-0078 (Ext. 301).

About the author: One of the nation’s leading experts in Farmland Protection, Bob Wagner celebrated his 25th year at American Farmland Trust in 2010 and has worked in the field of farmland protection since 1981. In his current position, Wagner helps states and local communities nationwide build support for and create policies to protect agricultural land.

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