Our farm in the news: The Holland Sentinal.

Here is a story that appeared in the Holland Sentinal in 2004. While the details are not exactly accurate for what we currently have planned, it is still a very interesting story.

Holland Sentinal
Monday, April 5, 2004

Family wants to turn farm into a children's museum

Pressure from developers has farm owners planning change

Staff writer

The farm that Rudy Palenick worked for 33 years still sits at the end of the pavement
on 122nd Avenue in Allegan Township.

Its 59 acres have become overgrown with wild plants that provide a shelter for deer,
muskrats, fox and many species of birds. The farm's vintage 1858 hand-hewn timber
barn needs a fresh coat of red paint and the owners are trying to find a replacement
for the windmill that once helped pump water for the eight members of the Palenick

Directly across the road, homes are being planted on land where hay was once a
primary crop.

"It's really hard to see the land paved over," said Mary (Palenick) Colborn, Rudy's
45-year-old daughter. "There's so much developmental pressure on the farm. ...
We've cried over it too much."

The farm was originally purchased in the early 1850s for about $600. The house, a
three-story farm house built from plans that could be bought at a corner store, and
barn both date to 1858, Colborn said.

Rudy Palenick bought the land in 1957 and farmed it until his death in 1990. He
left his wife, Anna, in solid financial shape, but by the time the elderly widow died
she left an $80,000 lien on the farm, Colborn said. She added that her siblings
have struggled to keep the farm out of foreclosure and fight back against an
overwhelming pressure to sell out to developers.

"It (the debt) took us a long time to discover because we plunked down all the
insurance moneys, everything we had," she said. "My mother had been dead for two
weeks and (people) were calling us wanting to buy the land."

So Colborn and her sisters, Fran Norton and Anna Rose, joined forces around a
common goal: Preserving their farm and securing its future. The sisters envision
establishing a not-for-profit children's and agricultural-history museum on the land.
Their plan would include a farm tool museum, many different gardens, interpretative
centers, trails running through the 15 acres of wetlands on the farm, a petting zoo
with working animals, a gift shop and a corn maze.

The wetlands and a stream that cuts across the acreage and empties into Miner Lake
could be used for water quality studies and high school biology classes, Colborn said.
She added that it could also provide employment for developmentally disabled adults
from the county.

"What we're hoping is to create something that is life-affirming, that creates jobs,
that can pull in tourism and that teaches children," Colborn said.

"It sounds fantastic," said county Parks Director Kevin Ricco. "I'm not sure what level
of involvement the county would have to have, but on a personal level, I think it
sounds like a fantastic idea."

Ricco said working-model farms are popular in communities that were built upon
agriculture, such as Allegan County. Any facility that could teach children about

traditional methods of industry is beneficial, he said.

"It's part of our heritage in this part of the state," he said. "Anytime that piece of it
can be preserved for the benefit of our county, that's great."

Allegan County Commissioner Don Black said the skills he gained growing up on his
own family's farm were fading away in today's world. A hands-on farm such as that
which Colborn is pursuing, could go a long way to help children learn how and why
their predecessors worked, he said.

"We need a place where kids can learn how to grow plants, how to take care of
animals, how to do hard work," he said. "I think that we could pull a few people
together on this and get it going."

Both Black and County Administrator Michael Lombardo said they would introduce
Colborn's proposal to county programs and groups that might be interested.