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Woman to donate her Beecher farm to Will County Forest Preserve

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Updated: July 17, 2013 7:03AM



Three framed pictures of Lisbet Temple’s husband riding magnificent horses adorn a former chicken coop on the couple’s 160-acre farm near Beecher.

The late Arvid Temple was a dressage rider who mastered the art of having his horses do fancy footwork. But Temple said she was never any good at riding horses and considered them nothing more than “big dogs.”

Riding horses may be the only thing this Renaissance woman can’t do. Out at the farm, which is a mile from the Indiana border, Temple grows vegetables and fruit and makes toys and puzzles in a chicken coop that was converted into a wood shop.

She donates the produce and the toys to Respond Now, a social service agency in Chicago Heights. She even sews her bonnets to keep the sun off her face and neck while she is working in her gardens.

Off the farm, Temple, 69, teaches income tax law to seniors and has a master’s degree in 18th-Century literature from the University of Chicago.

And she’s a vegetarian who believes in no-till farming to preserve the topsoil and doesn’t water the plants she grows because she believes in conserving resources.

First step

Temple also believes in land preservation. That’s why on Thursday, she took the first step to protect her farm from future development.

Temple agreed to give the Will County Forest Preserve District a conservation easement for her land that will prevent it from ever being developed. The districts board approved the easement at its meeting on Thursday.

While Temple talked to other agencies about taking over her farm, “I think Will County is just wonderful to want to share what nature there is,” she said. “I think the forest preserve people are absolutely fabulous.”

The next step in the donation process will involve an irrevocable land trust that will guarantee that the district gets the land when Temple dies. The district will either preserve the farm as a educational site or convert it back to wetlands and prairie.

Until she dies, however, the easement and land trust guarantee that Temple, who lives in Flossmoor, retains the right to visit and work at the site to stay active and healthy.

“Most people my age are on medicine by now,” she said. “I’m not.”

After the donation, Temple’s farm will continue to be called The Tempest Farm after her husband’s first dressage horse, which he had to sell when he was drafted for the Korean War. His second horse also was named Tempest and so was one of his dogs.

“Tempest was the name he liked,” Temple said.

Largest donation

While there is a larger conservation easement, 190 acres of Mistwood golf course in Romeoville, Temple’s land donation will be the largest in the forest preserve district’s history when it comes to pass.

The first donation came in 1931 when Harry and Laura Gerdes donated land for Gerdes Grove in Wilton Township, said Marcy DeMauro, the district’s executive director.

A total of 1,387 of the district’s 22,000 acres either have been donated or are in easements controlled by the district, DeMauro said.

Temple, a former financial planner, said there are sound financial reasons to donate or grant land easements. The conservation easement will knock 50 percent off the value of the farm, which was appraised at about $2 million a few years ago.

That $1 million loss in value due to the easement can be used by Temple as a charitable donation to deduct up to 50 percent off of her adjusted gross income each year for 15 years. And the ultimate donation will lower her estate taxes, too.

In addition to preserving the farm and reducing her tax bill, Temple said she also wants to prevent what has happened to nearby farms. When the longtime owners died, their land was quickly divided into lots for homes.

The houses are in the middle of nowhere, and there are no stores or schools or transportation centers nearby, she explained.

“This is not sustainable,” Temple said. “These people are in their cars all the time burning up gasoline.”

DeMauro said Temple’s commitment to preserving the land is remarkable.

“I think Mrs. Temple is one of those rare people you meet in life who is truly altruistic,” she said. “She has a very passionate and giving nature.”

It’s clear Temple and her husband loved the farm, DeMauro said, adding that it was “their refuge, so this (donation) is something that was really special to her.”

Repairing the world

Arvid, who was a surgeon and died in 2007, purchased the farm in 1965, four years before he married Temple.

“I married him because he told funny stories,” she said.

The couple never lived at the farm, but Temple said her husband would head there every day after work to spend time in his wood shop.

Years ago, the couple raised 40 cows on the farm. Once, Temple had to fill in and milk the cows while she was in graduate school in the 1970s. She switched the radio in the dairy barn from an agricultural station to something she thought the cows might enjoy better.

“I played classical music for them, and I’d wash their udders and dip their teats in iodine,” she said.

Through the years, Temple has followed a philosophy called tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that means “repairing the world.” And that’s what’s guiding her as she prepares to hand over her precious farm to the forest preserve district.

“Our world is damaged, and the only way to repair it is to try to return it to the way it was originally,” she said. “I don’t own the farm. It’s like I’m a steward, and I was looking for something to pass on the stewardship to.”



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