In 2014, two local nonprofit organizations came together in a way that was both unusual and profound when Main Stay Therapeutic Farm donated a permanent conservation easement on its 40-acre center near Richmond to The Land Conservancy of McHenry County.
Main Stay chose to ensure that the land where its mission plays out for 120 individuals each week will never be developed, even if the agency leaves that place.
Main Stay is a unique nonprofit, human service agency that uses horses, small animals and the land to help people facing a wide array of challenges. The organization does not receive government or United Way funds, but is funded primarily by donors. Recognizing that many of their clients are burdened by significant health care expenses, Main Stay’s clients pay only a nominal fee which covers less than 20% of the actual session cost.
Area nonprofits such as Family Alliance, HeadStart, Pioneer Center and Big Brothers/Big Sisters work with Main Stay to provide important therapies for the people they serve. Clients range in age from 3 to 93, and no one is turned away because of an inability to afford their services.
In addition to therapeutic horseback riding, Main Stay provides:
- equine-facilitated learning and animal assisted therapy sessions where at-risk youth have the opportunity to build self-esteem, empathy and responsibility by caring for a variety of rescued animals like goats and sheep, and
- land-based programs where special-needs students learn about the world around them through gardening, hiking, building bird houses and caring for the land.
TLC will keep an eye on the property in perpetuity to ensure that whomever owns the land in the future maintains it in the rural, undeveloped state that Main Stay wants it to be – forever.
Not only is this the first conservation easement that TLC accepted from a nonprofit organization, but it is also the first new conservation easement donated within the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge boundary. Main Stay’s 40-acre farm is located on Keystone Road, across from the McHenry County Conservation District’s Glacial Park, which is a critical part of the refuge.
Hackmatack is unique in that it is designed to include a combination of publicly owned and managed lands linked by private property which is preserved and managed to support wildlife movement between the public sites. The design reflects the reality of land use and land ownership, recognizing that the vast majority of land is – and always will be – in private ownership.
As the only nonprofit land conservation organization serving all of McHenry County, TLC has preserved nearly 2,100 acres of land, primarily by accepting donated conservation easements on private property. The landowners continue to own the land and use it as they always have, but know that even when it passes to their heirs or is sold, all future landowners will have to keep it in a comparable, undeveloped condition.
Main Stay revealed a new logo in May to reflect its full mission and vision in a holistic way. The barn cupola with weather vane provide direction and a destination, and act as a source of light and beauty, while the color green represents nurturing, nature and the land.
It also harkens to the farm heritage of the area while offering a glimpse of the future – a future where some things will never change.