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Garfield Farm Museum Awards Dinner April 28
Museum Celebrates 35th Anniversary

What: 2012 Garfield Farm Museum Awards
When April 28, 2012, 6:00 pm reception & dinner 8 pm Awards Winners: Heritage Prairie Farm of Elburn,IL. Dr. Paul Sorensen of DeKalb, IL, and Geneva, IL residents Sheila Penrose & Ernie Mahaffey Where: Dunham Woods Riding Club 33W333 Army Trail Road Wayne, IL Fee: $50 for dinner or $5 for just the Awards Ceremony,  RESERVATION REQUIRED by April 23
Contact: 630 584-8485 or

     On Saturday, April 28th at 8 pm. Garfield Farm Museum will recognize individuals who have made contributions to the fields of historic, agricultural and/or environmental preservation at the Dunham Woods Riding Club in Wayne, IL.

     Garfield Farm Museum's three themes of history, farming and the environment are annually celebrated by recognizing groups or individuals which share such common interests by their actions and deeds. For 24 years, these awards are to pay tribute and draw attention to the awardees and their impact on the community, region or nation.

     From the inception of Garfield Farm Museum in 1977, the desire to emphasize the importance of farming to this country's democratic and economic success has been reflected in the museum's daily efforts to preserve and restore Garfield Farm as an 1840s working farm museum for public awareness and education. Embracing principles of modern, traditional, organic, sustainable, and local agriculture it is gratifying to find a neighboring operation, the Heritage Prairie Farm, pioneering in food production that was almost non-existent at the time of the museum's founding in 1977. Growing vegetables, fruits, etc. for local consumption began disappearing from most of northern Illinois when the orchards and truck farms were paved over by O‚Hare Airport (ironically coded ORD for Orchard Field) and the ever expanding suburbs. By the 1970s, corn and beans dominated what "food production” was and the growing of fruits and vegetables were relegated to specialty farming. It seemed no future lay in the traditional growing of foodstuffs in a region of 7 million people with some of the most fertile and rain abundant land in the world. Yet the interest in organic foods, heirloom varieties of produce, poultry and livestock grew through the years, that individuals who did not have traditional farm backgrounds, saw no reason not to try such production.      Heritage Prairie Farm, within sight of Garfield Farm Museum on Brundige Road and Route 38, founded by Bronwyn Weaver and Robert Archibald, has demonstrated a successful model of bringing the consumer in touch with the source of their food. At the same time they have provided a market for other local food producers to get their bounty to a public that seeks more knowledge about their food. Garfield Farm Museum is pleased to give the Heritage Prairie Farm an agricultural preservation award for its work.

    Traditional methods should never be abandoned just because of fashion or trends. It has taken years and often centuries of discovery, learning, failures and successes to advance any human endeavor. That accumulated knowledge is critical to advance understanding. Abandonment of learning adding and subtracting just because computers exist will retard further advancement as fundamentals are the foundation of any field. Yet the allure of the modern, the most technologically advance is impacting   even our scientific fields.

      Science is based on the simplest but difficult concept to master: observation. Being able to look at something repeatedly and then one day seeing it all in a new light made Newton and his apple, Einstein and his trains geniuses by definition. In an exciting era of genetic engineering, the most basic field of biology, identifying living things around us, is plagued by a shortage of future taxonomists. These are the individuals who have chosen to study oft times the minutiae of life that requires great discipline and patience. Yet observing the small and seemingly insignificant, taxonomists are oft times the first to note that something is happening to life. They may be the first to sound the alarm that a species is declining that may in turn signal a broader threat to living things. Professor Emeritus Paul D. Sorensen of Northern Illinois University is such an example.

     As a plant taxonomist, Sorensen's career of identifying and observing plants could be one of comfortable academic isolation. Yet he has been a key adviser to the Committee for Wildlife Preservation, a student organization of NIU since its beginning. He has also been involved in the Afton Prairie restoration of the DeKalb Forest Preserve and is adjunct curator of the botany exhibit at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, IL. The grass roots effort to restore prairie here in Illinois owes much to such taxonomists both professional and skilled amateur because they have guided, inspired and helped many budding prairie enthusiasts and restorationists in the most basic but key skill, identifying plants. The Environmental Preservation Award for Dr. Sorensen is to recognize his contributions and highlight the need for students to become the taxonomists of tomorrow.

    Seattle-based Preservation Green Lab which advances research that explores the value that older buildings bring to their communities, has just released of The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse.  A key point of the study reveals that building reuse typically yields fewer environmental impacts than new construction when comparing buildings of similar size, functionality and energy efficiency. For Ernie Mahaffey and Sheila Penrose, they intuitively knew this before such a study when they undertook the rehabilitation and retrofitting of a 1929 Tudor style home at 405 S. First St. in Geneva, Illinois‚ historic district.

     The tradition of maintaining buildings over time has declined in this country. The family home once so proudly built by pioneering families to last for subsequent generations has suffered with job mobility and agrarian decline of living in relationship to the land. Only the current economic housing crisis finds owners now considering retiring in homes they intended to sell upon retirement or welcoming adult offspring back to economically safe haven of the family home.

    Thus maintaining a house for one's children's future home has declined. Let the next owner deal with the roof or foundation issues. Such was the state of this Tudor style house that lack of timely maintenance of leaks, resulting in the necessity of rebuilding the entire southern stone wall. Mahaffey and Penrose also recognized today's market calls for energy efficiency and the house was retrofitted from the interior walls to the traditional windows. Being in a historic district, an appropriate addition was designed to meet modern space expectations. Living just a few doors away, Mahaffey and Penrose were concerned with maintaining the historic character of the house but also in demonstrating how to improve a historic structure as an example to others. For this unusual public demonstration of historic preservation by private individuals, Garfield Farm Museum is proud to present a Historic Preservation Award.

    Over the 24 years of presenting these awards, there have been a gratifying number of candidates through the years. Not all years have a winner in each of the categories; some years there are multiple winners. Compared to 35 years ago when these fields of preservation were just becoming viable, there have been great strides in each, albeit at different paces at different times.  Garfield Farm Museum's boards, Garfield Heritage Society and Campton Historic Agricultural Lands, wish to encourage such efforts by bringing them to the public's attention, demonstrating positive steps in an ever challenging era of rapid change.

    Garfield Farm Museum is a historically intact 370 acre former 1840s prairie farmstead and teamster inn being restored as an 1840ws working farm museum. It has had support from over 3000 households from over 37 states. Over $8 million has been invested to date with an anticipated $3 million needed to complete restoration and preservation of the over 20 houses, barns and outbuildings, reconstruction of the 1830/40s log house and construction of an archives/collections building.

   The dinner is $50 per person. Reservations are required by calling 630 584-8485. To attend just the Awards Ceremony, there is a $5 fee and space is limited.

For more information about Garfield Farm send an e-mail message to: or call 630/584-8485.