Trustees back initiative to sell endowment farm

By Whitney Blair Wyckoff

The University may sell an 893-acre endowment farm that it uses to fund ACES scholarships. Money from the sale will be reinvested, and the University plans to continue to allocate it toward ACES scholarships. Some money will also go toward the South Farms relocation project.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees approved an initiative to look into finding a firm to market the DeKalb County plot last Thursday.

State Sen. Harry Wright donated four farms, or a total of 952 acres, to the University in 1943. The land was supposed to promote agricultural education and fund agricultural scholarships. One farm that is used as a research station will not be sold.

“This transaction will provide an opportunity for the University to do more with Sen. Wright’s gift than could have been imagined back in 1943,” Douglas Beckmann, senior associate vice president for business and finance, said in a press release.

Currently, the University employs local farmers to grow corn and soy and raise cattle.

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“Land prices in that particular county are high now,” said Lex Tate, associate director for University relations. The value of the farm is currently growing faster than any other University-owned endowment farm. Tate also said that whether the farm will continue to be used in an agricultural capacity depends on how the county rezones the land.

“There’s some pressure to develop” in DeKalb because of its proximity to Chicago, said Kevin Noland, director of Cash Management and Agricultural Investments. But Noland said that he thinks that the land will continue to be used for agriculture after it is purchased.

According to the lllinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers’ 2006 Land Values Report, the University should expect to garner $7,000 per acre.

Tate said that the sale would earn the same or more than what is normally allocated toward ACES scholarships. It also would help fund a long-term project that would move South Farms facilities south of Windsor Road. The move would also allow the South Farms to modernize its facilities.

In the past, trustees have not been able to sell endowed farm land but the policy changed in January of 2006. Trustees can now sell endowed land when the sale is not prohibited in the donor’s will. This is the first proposed sale since the policy change.

In December, the trustees plan to develop a short list of potential farm brokers. From that, they will choose a few recommended brokers. On Jan. 18, 2007, the Board of Trustees will be asked to approve a final broker, and in February there will be a finalized contract.

The Board of Trustees plans to have the farm on the market by February 2007.

Noland said that the board has only recently started looking into selling endowment farmland. But he said that most of land has provisions barring the University from selling it.

“We expect to be a large farm owner for years to come,” Noland said.