Pope Farm Homestead Preservation

Pope Homestead Preservation Update – May 2016

The view from the Conservancy of the old barn, farmhouse and surrounding fields is not guaranteed to stay forever the way it looks now.  For that reason, a group of Friends members continues to plan for preservation of the property.  Working with other partners, we hope to protect the land from development so it continues to reflect the rural, agricultural landscape we all cherish.  Long term we have ideas for new educational and other programs that will enhance the activities the Friends already offer the public.

fadeBarns from Rock Wal1l800
Photo by Jack Sherman

What we call the “Homestead” is the 15 acres retained by the Pope family when most of their land was transferred to the Town of Middleton to form Pope Farm Conservancy.  If you think of the barn, you are thinking about the Homestead.  The current landowner is interested in preservation at some future point.  She and her family are receptive to a community-based protection plan, although timing and details are still in progress.

For some professional advice, our committee turned to the Natural Heritage Land Trust.  Focusing on the greater Dane County area, the Land Trust has over 30 years of experience preserving over 10,000 acres of natural areas, wildlife habitat, working farms, lakeshores, stream beds, and recreational land.  Land Trust staff told us that if we want to be sure the iconic barn is preserved, then it needs to be purchased.  We are interested in preserving the barn and the land. We continue to look for a way forward to accomplish this, and are looking for partners who might be interested in buying the farmhouse and using it for activities complementary to those of the Conservancy.

We are uncertain when the actual acquisition efforts will begin, and we are actively preparing for that time.  In the coming months we will be raising public awareness of our preservation goal using a variety of strategies.  We are seeking input from community members, especially those who know and love Pope Farm Conservancy.  To be successful in the long term, we need to know that a future fundraising drive could succeed.  That can’t happen without more people getting involved – sharing ideas, providing feedback on our plans, helping us reach out to nearby neighborhood residents, getting the word out to others, and more.

Please continue to watch the FOPFC website and other publications for information about our efforts.  If you have questions or comments, feel free to email info@popefarmconservancy.org.  We would welcome your thoughts.

Pope Homestead Preservation Update – November 2015

The Pope Homestead Planning Committee is continuing to research how to preserve the 15 acres including the Pope Barn and farmhouse.  It is the landowner’s wish, as well as the goal of the Friends of PFC, to keep the land as open space and see it used in ways that enhance the Conservancy’s educational mission. Since the community visioning session in January 2015, the committee has done extensive internet research, looking for model programs that implement ideas suggested by visioning session participants. Here is the updated list of Potential Uses for the Pope Homestead (PDF).

The committee has begun to look for local nonprofit partners who might be interested in one or more of the potential uses.  As a result, the Natural Heritage Land Trust is assessing the feasibility of purchasing the historic Pope Barn and much of the surrounding farm fields.  The committee is now looking for another partner to purchase either or both houses to use as a base for programming that complements the Conservancy.

Pope Homestead Preservation Update – August 2015

The latest meeting of the committee was held on August 18th. The committee has researched the major topics as planned, and has come up with a variety of possible uses of the property. These include adult and youth education, plant pollinator programs, special events, and new field plots that complement the sunflower fields and other parts of the conservancy. However, the primary goal is to preserve the property and protect the viewscape, and the details of future uses are better left to evolve once the homestead property is secured. The Natural Heritage Land Trust has offered to assist in raising funds for obtaining at least part of the property. If Mrs. Pope is amenable to this approach and to working with the Land Trust, the Committee will then refer the idea of a possible partnership with the Land Trust to the Board.

Pope Homestead Preservation Update – July 2015

The Homestead Committee continues to meet to discuss research designed to refine ideas to utilize homestead within the conservancy. At the time of this writing a meeting is scheduled for the evening of July 21. The goal is to propose a plan for possible uses that would be used in capital acquisition.

Pope Homestead Preservation Update – June 2015

The Homestead Committee met on the evening of June 2 at the Town of Middleton Hall. The meeting was well attended and we had a lively discussion. Jodi Sherman gave a very informative presentation on our Theme #3, Education and Curriculum. We learned about how other organizations are approaching this topic, with the intent that we can learn from them and can also avoid unnecessary duplication. Vern Leibbrandt also gave a nice presentation on the importance of instruction for teachers so that children understand the importance of agriculture in today’s society and how agriculture is changing. The next meeting is scheduled for June 16 at the Town Hall.

Pope Homestead Preservation Update – April/May 2015

Since the January visioning session, the Pope Homestead Planning Committee has met several times to categorize the many ideas suggested for use of the property. Those ideas now fall under seven themes:

  • 1. Demonstrating Farming and Conservation
  • 2. Museum and Display
  • 3. Education and Curriculum
  • 4. Use of Buildings for Shelter and Events
  • 5. Vegetation
  • 6. Camps/Retreats
  • 7. Preservation of Land and Barn

Volunteer researchers are now using the internet to look for model programs developed elsewhere which are similar to the specific ideas on our list. Researchers are looking for good examples that meet these criteria: (1) Complementary to Pope Farm Conservancy; (2) Educational; (3) Relationship to agriculture if possible; and (4) Capacity to generate some sort of ongoing income stream. Our intention is to collect enough preliminary information to help us narrow down the number of ideas before we do more research.

At our next meeting we will begin to look at program models for Education and Curriculum. Subsequent meetings will focus on the other themes.

Our committee also met with Jim Welsh, Executive Director of the Natural Heritage Land Trust. Jim explained different approaches to preservation, including some pros and cons applying to this project. We decided we need to have a better idea of how we would use the property before we could make those decisions.

If you have comments to share, please email homestead@popefarmconservancy.org.

Themes and Ideas Summary

We request that you use the internet to research ideas by looking for examples that others have developed. This is preliminary research, because we are at a cursory review stage. Our goal for this stage is to gather enough information to help us narrow down the number of ideas to those that are feasible and appealing enough to merit further research. Please consult the criteria in the Ideas Research Process document to guide your research. The examples you submit should meet all of the criteria, with the possible exception of a relationship to agriculture. It is OK to add new ideas that fall under our themes and meet the criteria. It is also OK to discover through research that an idea isn’t feasible, in which case we would welcome that input. Thank you!

Theme #1: Demonstrating Farming and Conservation
• Heritage working farm (1914 or some other time period)
• Organic farming education
• Farm practices/lectures for the public
• Livestock, permanent or occasional
• Livestock therapy for developmentally disabled people
• Community orchard and/or unique crops
• UW research station for crops
• UW animals owned and used by Ag School
• Petting zoo
• Farming incubator like Farley Center for Peace and Justice – or make some acreage available to their farmers
• Bee/pollinator research

Theme #2: Museum and Display
• Rotational displays by invitation to UW, historical groups, etc.
• Interactive historical displays
• Farmstead historical display of people, customs, conservation/farming practices, daily routines like canning and making butter
• Art exhibits
• Farming equipment display
• Displays on future of agriculture and conservation
• Re-enactments and period celebratory events
• Kitchen garden display
• Interpretation of historical barn construction techniques

Theme #3: Education and Curriculum
• Resource center for teachers to use crops to teach science, technology and math
• Hands-on classes
• People from UW to teach classes
• Rustic classroom
• Tours and field trips
• Painting, sketching, quilting, and art classes
• Art/music therapy – kids, disabilities, seniors
• Bee/pollinator education
• Meditation/yoga/relaxation sessions

Theme #4: Use of Buildings for Shelter and Events
• Shelter for field trips etc. during inclement weather
• Equipment storage, including for PFC land stewardship and other programs
• Residence and/or office for UW grad students using property for study
• Community meeting space
• House as B&B, perhaps educational (“live like it is 1914”)
• Art/ music/dance/theater events, including for children
• Barn rental
• Square dances
• Space for other nonprofits to use

Theme #5: Vegetation
• More sunflowers and sell sunflower-related products
• Some other ornamental field, perhaps lavender
• Community garden
• Create more habitat for wildlife, such as more trees and/or grassland
• Ornamental gardens
• UW plant display
• Use pasture to raise food for livestock (could include corn silage) and/or sell hay

Theme #6: Camps/Retreats
• After-school activities
• Summer day camps
• Scouting programs
• Retreats for other groups

Theme #7: Preservation of Land and Barn
• Restoration of an historical barn
• Lease land to a CSA farmer
• Shared native seed processing facility in barn, such as prairie seed cleaning
• Use the small residence for a live-in caretaker
• Farmers’ market on the premises

Pope Homestead Preservation Update – Feb 2015

Pope Farm Visioning Meeting

Ideas big and small flowed from approximately 50 people who participated in the January 24 visioning session for the Pope Farm Homestead. The lively gathering was an initial step toward developing a plan for preserving the 15-acre property that borders Pope Farm Conservancy on two sides. At this meeting, attendees suggested various ways the homestead could be used in the future to enhance the Conservancy and its educational mission. Ideas ranged from supporting classroom field trips to keeping livestock to performing arts, and much more.

After the visioning session, members of the initial Planning Committee engaged in an “affinity diagramming” process, ably led by Dennis Schenborn of the Friends. Ideas were grouped into themes, as a way to organize the ideas. Identified as the overarching theme was preservation of the property including the barn. Other key themes are education, agricultural history, and community engagement.

Next steps will include mobilizing volunteers to conduct initial research related to the emerging themes. It is too early to say where the process will lead, but everyone on the Planning Committee was thrilled with the turnout for the visioning session and appreciates the participants who offered to help as planning moves forward. Thank you, one and all!

A Letter from the Pope Family

Greetings from the Pope Family,

This letter concerns the fate of the 15 acre homestead parcel that is pictured below. Currently Betty Pope owns the Pope homestead and resides there. We want her to live there for many years into the future. We are interested in looking at long term plans for the barn and the property in future years. We would prefer that the barn and the land be preserved in some way, and we hope you agree.


A committee called the “Pope Farm Homestead Planning Committee “has been formed as part of the “Friends” to begin looking at how this parcel could be used in the future. The committee is looking at ways to preserve the barn, and as much of the surrounding land as possible. Hopefully the ultimate use will have a symbiotic relationship to Pope Farm Conservancy.

We are just beginning this process and we need ideas of how best this land could be used. That is where you come in. We need your ideas, and your opinions are an important part of this process. This is a great opportunity for all of us to help shape the future of this important piece of property, and your ideas are very important. If you are interested in helping us, please contact homestead@popefarmconservancy.org.

Thank you for your consideration,

The Pope Family


The Pope Farm Homestead Planning Committee (PFHPC) was formed by the Friends of Pope Farm Conservancy in December 2014. This committee is looking at long term possibilities for the 15 acre Pope Homestead site that includes the barn and the buildings. This site is contiguous to Pope Farm Conservancy on 2 sides. We want your ideas! We need volunteers to help us research these ideas, and hope you will give this your consideration. If you are interested in helping us please contact homestead@popefarmconservancy.org.

Satellite Image of Pope Farm Homestead

Click on the image below to view a larger version.

Satellite Image of Property