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Sale of 181-year-old Indiana farm will fund ag education

Indiana Correspondent

CHARLESTOWN, Ind. — The 200-acre southern Indiana working farm that was owned since 1831 by ancestors of the recently deceased Louis J. Spriesterbach will be on the auction block Dec. 4.
Spriesterbach, who died in 2008 at the age of 90, is said by a surviving second cousin to have loved farming so much that he wanted the property to be kept a farm forever. He was concerned with seeing land around his Clark County farmstead increasingly being subdivided into housing and commercial lots.

Rodney Spriesterbach, the cousin, is president of the nonprofit Spriesterbach Farm Corp. (SFC), which is overseeing the sale and transfer of the property. He said it was Louis’ wish that the farm be used to educate youth and the public about agriculture in general, and to remain a farm in perpetuity.

Auctioneer Brian Beckort said buildings on the property include a 2,500 square-foot, two-story Federal-style house built in 1855. The house is dilapidated and, according to Beckort “in need of major repairs.”

The Beckort Auctions brochure says surrounding the house are the remnants of several historic outbuildings, including a stone springhouse, a smokehouse, a summer kitchen and work buildings. Beckort said the property will be sold in three separate parcels.
Tract No. 1 will be the 194-acre farm, of which 140 acres is tillable and the remainder is pastureland. The second tract will be a nine-acre plot zoned commercial, with frontage on State Road 62. Tract No. 3 is nearly four acres commercial, also fronting 62.

Beckort said a major factor of the sale will be the new conservation easement placed on the property by the SFC, which prohibits the land from being a subdivision. SFC board member Mark Thornburg noted while the main acreage must remain in agricultural production, the other tracts will be governed only by current zoning laws.

Under the new legal covenant conditions, “It will be up to the buyer to decide whether they will keep the farm in the current configuration of corn and soybean rotation, bring more land into production or raise some cattle on it,” Thornburg explained.
He said there will be no requirement to update the buildings as some local preservation groups had hoped.

District 10 Indiana Farm Bureau Director Robert Schickel knew Louis Spriesterbach and had been on the farm at different times in his capacity as a friend and a Farm Bureau fieldman. Schickel said the farmer had in his mind that the farm could be turned over to someone who could make it an agritourism site, such as the Conner Prairie Farm in Indiana or Blackacre Farm in Kentucky.
Closer to the time of his death, however, he realized the funds just were not there, Schickel said.

“With the money from the sale of this farm, we are going to carry out Louis’ wishes to do ag education through scholarships and other ag education youth activities geared to the public,” Schickel noted.