Martin Jones had been dreaming of finding a way to preserve the piece of tallgrass prairie that has been in his family since the 1950s for 26 years.
It was 1992 when Jones first approached the Kansas Land Trust to talk about conservation easement that would protect Oakwood Farm. He wanted to stop a highway project that would have ripped up much of the prairie. Eventually, Jones won the fight to the re-route of highway and his focus turned to other projects.
But last October, Jones started thinking about the conservation easement again. Over the past several months, he has worked through all the necessary steps with the Kansas Land Trust to preserve the 96 acres of prairie, woodlands and crops. And right around Christmas, Jones realized his long-time dream.
Oakwood Farm was the first entire farmstead to be placed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places. It was settled by a Missouri family in 1854 and the town of Calhoun was built nearby. A wagon trail ran from a ferry on the Kansas River across the farm to the Fort Leavenworth — Fort Riley military trail. Wagon trail ruts remain visible on the farm.
Later, the Taylors, a family from Pennsylvania, turned a horticultural experiment on the farm into a regional economic success when they planted apply seedings in the fertile bottomland of the Kansas River.
Apple seedlings grown on the property grew into an export business that peaked at 30 million seedling apple trees annually distributed across the nation. The Great Depression and changing markets meant apple production moved to the Pacific Northwest.
Jones’ parents purchased the land in 1956.
“Both my mom and dad always cared about the land,” Jones says. “I remember picnicking in the woods, going out on the prairie, and hearing all the stories about an Indian burial ground and wagon ruts. I always talked to my mom about conserving this land.”
Thinking about the present state of the farm, Jones says. “The gem of this property is the prairie. It's a high-quality remnant of a tall grass prairie. The species that are out there just can’t be found everywhere.”
Now that the land is preserved with KLT, Jones wants to improve the biodiversity of the land. He plans to selectively remove trees and shrubs on parts of the property that are overgrown. He wants to restore an oak-hickory savanna that existed back in the 1930s.
“I'm excited about putting this land into a conservation easement and seeing where we go from here,” Jones says.
Source: Kansas Land Trust