Garfield Farm Museum’s 2024 awards go to Openlands, The Conservation Fund and Rustic Road Farm

On Saturday, May 4, Garfield Farm Museum will recognize five preservation endeavors at the 33rd awards ceremony with a dinner at the historic Dunham Woods Riding Club in Wayne.

The 2024 award winners reflect the critical role of public, private and nonprofit partnerships. They are Openlands; Gerald W. Adelmann, retired president of Openlands; The Conservation Fund; Rustic Road Farm; and the Cloonlara Partnership of the James P. Hughes Sr. farmstead.

The evening begins with a reception at 6 p.m. and buffet dinner at 6:45 p.m. The awards ceremony will start 8 p.m. with recognition of The 1840s Society Class of 2023 donors.

Following the awards, a review of the progress toward the 2027 50th Anniversary $4 million Bucket List goal to complete museum facilities will be given.

Dinner is $70 or $65 for members. To help sponsor the evening, a donation of $100 or more will include listing in the evening’s program. To receive an invitation by mail or email, contact or call (630) 584-8485.

Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund began in 1985 as an entrepreneurial nonprofit organization that would bring environmental protection and economic vitality together as a mutually reinforcing, necessary path forward for America. It has been involved in permanently preserving nearly 9 million acres of land in all 50 states. It has recently established the Working Farms Fund to support a new and diverse generation of ambitious farmers who aim to expand food production, while permanently protecting significant farmland in critical locations across the United States. Here in Kane County, The Conservation Fund has purchased the 30-acre James P. Hughes Sr. farmstead southeast of Elburn, from the Cloonlara Partnership.

Rustic Road Farm

Marc and Luis Bernard own and operate Rustic Road Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation on Brundige Road east of LaFox. Rustic Road Farm will lease the Conservation Fund’s new acquisition allowing Rustic Road to have more acreage and facilities for growing more produce, pasture-raised livestock and free-range poultry.

For their combined efforts, the “Award for Agricultural Preservation” will be awarded to each.

Cloonlara Partnership

In turn, without a cooperative willing seller, no land would be preserved and thus the Cloonlara Partnership is receiving a “Cooperator for Agricultural Preservation Award.”

The partnership had previously sold their adjacent farmland acreage to the Forest Preserve District of Kane County to expand the district’s oldest preserve, Johnson’s Mound. James P. Hughes Sr. bought the farm in the early 1960s, which was originally settled by William B. West who in the 1840s was an active contributor to the Prairie Farmer magazine. Hughes had maintained a signboard on his barn listing all the owners of the farm through the decades.


Openlands of Chicago is an innovative protector and steward of the land since 1963 creating access to nature for all. Through local alliances, forward vision, and persistent action, Openlands connects and leads conservation work, serving as a guiding voice for communities, organizations, and more effective policy in northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region.

Garfield Farm Museum has closely followed Openlands’ success since 1977 as that year Garfield Farm was Openlands’ first real estate holding as the museum’s two nonprofits were being established, Garfield Heritage Society and Campton Historic Agricultural Lands.

Once those organizations were established, Openlands placed conservation easements on the property giving ownership of the land to the two nonprofits, fulfilling the late Elva R. Garfield’s dream of preserving the land and its heritage.

Openlands continues its an incredible track record (over 71,000 acres saved in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin) of creative land preservation methods. Most recently working with The Conservation Fund and the Illinois Audubon Society, over 900 acres near Richmond, IL have been protected to become part of the envisioned 11,200-acre Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge that connects core natural areas with wildlife corridors across the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Openlands will receive a well-deserved “Environmental Preservation Award.”

Gerald W. Adelmann

Gerald W. Adelmann

Professional dedication over a lifetime career is key to many exceptionally successful nonprofit endeavors. For 35 years as CEO of Openlands, Gerald W. Adelmann has coupled environmental preservation with historic preservation. It began 43 years ago as Adelmann joined Openlands coordinating the creation of the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, the first of now 62 such national corridors.

Inspiring the preservation of the Gaylord Building in the 1980s, Adelmann’s preservation interests lead to being a member of the National Board of Advisors of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, undertaking historic preservation efforts in China in the 1990s and since 2008 he has served as an international adviser to the Yangon Heritage Trust in Myanmar. Yet such distance travels have also kept him close to home maintaining a family’s historic property in Lockport while guiding the day-to-day operations of Openlands.

It is hard to imagine the number of environmental efforts in the region that would have been as successful without his voice such as the 18,000-acre Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie or the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. Much less noticeable but perhaps even more significant are his efforts made to prevent poorly planned and environmentally detrimental public and private projects that fortunately never came to be. Retirement will undoubtedly offer Adelmann opportunities to get involved in even more avocations. He is a recipient of a combined “Environmental and Historic Preservation Award.”

The Garfield Farm Museum Awards were established in 1989 to recognize other entities that share at least one of the three inseparable themes of the museum: history, farming and nature. Making people aware of others’ efforts encourages more people to participate in preserving this country’s strengths in their own backyard. Getting the word out about these accomplished organizations’ and individuals’ efforts has become even more challenging with the fragmentation of the media.

The museum’s awards are held at the former Oak Lawn Farm, one of the world’s largest draft horse breeding facilities in the world in the late 1800s. It survives in part as the Dunham Woods Riding Club that consists of 40 acres, several historic barns, and the late 1830s Solomon Dunham farmhouse converted to a clubhouse. The late Miss Jane Dunham was a very generous supporter of Garfield Farm. The historic Dunham farm setting is the perfect venue for the museum’s awards evening.

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