50 Years of Stewardship

Meeting the Wedel family was a highpoint of this summer for me. Watching the grandparents’ conservation vision be passed on to their sons and their grandchildren should give us all a little more hope in the future. This article first appeared in My Wisconsin Woods, the online newsletter of The Aldo Leopold Foundation.

About 50 years ago, Tom Wedel and his wife Eva were living in Crystal Lake, Illinois, north of Chicago. They knew they wanted to buy some land, but were not sure where to look.

Tom was a commercial pilot. “I was flying one day,” he remembers, “when another pilot was catching a ride and chatting with the captain. I heard the words New Glarus, hills, farm, and pretty, all in the same sentence.”

A New Glarus realtor showed them a property with seven acres of woods — the rest was corn. That was not what they were looking for, but at the next stop, while Tom was out of the car opening the gate that opened into a valley dotted with cows and ringed with trees, Eva told the realtor, “We’ll buy this one.”

  • Planted upland prairie in the foreground and also along the wood way back are connected by an expansive and very high-quality wetland complex running the length of the property.

“It was very poor farmland because the soil was all rock and sand with a giant wetland in the middle that had cows on it,” says their son Andy.

For a time the farmer continued to live in the house and farm the land while the Wedels drove up from Illinois as often as they could. “Along with our two little boys and German Shepard, we camped down by the spring, with the cows nudging on the tent during the night,” Eva remembers.

Today, an old fallen oak arches over the source of the spring, one of seven year-round springs on the land. “When I was a little kid, it was a giant tree with a spring coming out of its roots,” Andy remembers. “It was magical to come here, and it became a family obsession. My brother, Davin, and his family live in Boston. My family lives in Tucson. We are three time zones apart, but we come here a lot because it is so incredibly emotionally, scientifically, and spiritually satisfying to do this kind of work and discover another butterfly, bird, or plant that is in trouble and give it a hand.”

To read more of this article, click the link to My Wisconsin Woods.

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