Glenview saw a steady migration of German settlers in the 1850s. Johann Wagner’s family was one of those families. Over the course of the next 40 years, Wagner owned approximately 91 acres along what now is Lake Avenue and Wagner Road.
In 1902, Wagner’s youngest son, Thomas, married Julia Brachtendorf and bought a 40-acre truck and dairy farm, now called Wagner Farm. Thomas became a Northfield Township road commissioner and also owned a gravel business. He passed the gravel business on to two of his sons and three of his five children lived on the farm, increasing its acreage to 102, and remained in that home the rest of their lives.
Today, although smaller and owned by the Glenview Park District, the farm structures remain intact and its functions remain operational.
“This is one of the only museums in the United States that talks about truck farming,” said farm director Todd Price. Raised on a farm, Price has a history and education background. “This [farm] is all about where food comes from – both interpretively and educationally. This is our mission as a farm. Groups like 4H are a perfect fit with this mission.”
As Price strongly believes in community service, he founded the Glenview 4H group, the Clovers, in 2002. “4H members become farmers as well as consumers,” he said. “They learn to work, get dirty, to forecast and keep records, as well as deal with markets. It’s great for kids to take ownership and learn these lessons.” At the farm, they raise both vegetables and animals. “We make things people eat and emulate a real farm in every way.”
The animals on the farm are well taken care of and even have a nutritionist. “They get custom rations and get the best hay available,” said Price. “They even have vets specifically for their needs.”
A baby lamb born in January or February will reach a weight around 50 pounds by March or April when the animal is purchased by the 4H member. By July, the animal reaches a market weight of between 130 and a45 pounds and is taken to the Lake County Fair.
“The kids are shown how this is done properly,” said Price. “They know what is going on and that the next crop will replace them.”
At the farm, people can take classes, attend events like the “historic dinners” program, participate in an experimental community garden or just drive by. Wagner Farm also offers a program for children with special needs.
“Even if you are a vegan, if you are going to eat, the food comes from a farm and someone toiled for your benefit,” said Price. “Our mission is to let people and know and appreciate where food comes from and better understand our history and heritage. It is a big mission, but we think it is important.”