NICHES Gifted 400 Acres of Lois Farris North Farm


One of the great joys of working for NICHES Land Trust is the opportunity to carry on the legacy of our community members. Especially gratifying is when an estate plan is so well thought out and coordinated as the one left behind by our late friend Lois Lynn (Lowe) Farris. Lois bequeathed generous gifts to Indiana DNR, The Nature Conservancy, and NICHES Land Trust upon her passing in November of 2021.

 In 2022, NICHES received from her estate the 400-acre Lois Farris North Farm, a mix of tillable acres and remnant natural area, with the stipulation that we follow through with a restoration plan put together in coordination with NICHES back in 2005 when we were still an all-volunteer organization with only 10 protected properties.

Lois was a keen woman who lived 99 years in the Monon area. The great-great-granddaughter of Charles Lowe, who moved to the Monon area in the early 1830’s and bought 240-acres, she graduated from International Business College in Ft. Wayne in 1941 and joined in managing the family’s farms and cattle business. The Lowe family land had grown to over 900-acres and it was passed down to her through the generations. Among many other ventures she worked part-time in the Jasper Newton Mental Health Center and upon her resignation she was described as “straight forward, no-nonsense, to the point, businesslike, and professional in every way.”

Lois loved animals both wild and domestic and it was of paramount importance to her that she preserved her family’s land and heritage, in particular, for the benefit of wildlife. Personal letters between NICHES founders and early board presidents, Susan Ulrich, Ted Harris, and Jim McGlone from 2002-2004 show how the plan came together. NICHES representatives were honest with Lois that the organization did not have the resources or staff that the DNR or TNC could provide for restoration efforts, but she chose to include NICHES alongside these more wellestablished organizations in her estate plan anyway.

A simple plan outlining the creation of a mix of dry prairie, savanna, wet prairie and wetlands across the 400-acre North Farm was compiled in 2005 and recorded with her will. I have taken this simple plan and began to build out the details of a restoration and revitalization project that will honor Lois’s wishes, likely beyond what she could have imagined. NICHES is bringing in our conservation partners with the USDA, USFWS, DNR, Ecologic LLC, Midwest Biological Survey LLC, and more to support NICHES staff and board efforts to set a new bar for restoration work with this opportunity.

We are working with-up spraying of invasive shrub thickets and invasive forage grasses. The remnant areas retain significant populations of conservative prairie species including leadplant, white false-indigo, porcupine grass, and many more. We hope to revive the health of these areas and hopefully draw more conservative species out of the seed bank while we work to enroll the property into the WRE program through the USDA and plan the restoration of the farmed ground to create a 400-acre block of mosaic habitat.

We plan to use the local conservation club, which was started by Lois’s father Edward Lowe, as our volunteer hunting crew for the Farris Estate, and they will work to help us remove interior fencing on the property and prepare for our first prescribed burn this September. 

A detailed map of all the invasive species across the property will be developed along with a calendar of treatments, which will be completed as a USFWS Partner’s Project. USFWS employees will complete forestry mulching in the winter of 2023/2024 and Ecologic, along with NICHES staff, will match that effort with foliar herbicide treatments through 2024. Also, in 2024 Midwest Biological Survey will complete a full plant inventory of the remnant areas and NICHES board member and former Purdue soil scientist John Graveel will complete a full soil survey of the tillable acres. This work will inform the restoration of the tillable acres and ensure that we create something that fits the canvas of the landscape and heals another small piece of the local world we call home.

It is with humble gratitude that I thank Lois for her trust in NICHES Land Trust, a local grassroots organization, to care for this portion of her family’s land in perpetuity. It is with great respect that I stand on the shoulders of NICHES founders and bring the vision they shared with Lois nearly 20-years ago home.

- From NICHES Stewardship Director Bob Easter's Stewardship Updates featured in the 2023 Quarter 3 Issue of The Sprout

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