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Lofys designate their farm to Historical Society

Sept. 13, 2012 | 0 comments


Why would any farmer who has worked hard all his life decide to give a portion of his farm away?

There may be lots of reasons but for Herb and Sharon Lofy, their decision to create a life estate that designates the gift of 39 1/2 acres of their farm as a gift to the Richfield Historical Society was a combination of good business and estate planning.

It is also an interest in preserving not only the local farming history but also their family’s own farm history.

"It is a legacy for not just our family, but all the Lofys who settled here so many years ago," says Herb.

His wife Sharon says, "We didn’t take this lightly and we didn’t make a decision on impulse. We talked with our grown kids about it and they agreed it was a way to accomplish our goal of keeping it as green space and helping to preserve farming history."

Herb says, "Without use-value assessment, we could not have afforded to keep this farm going in an area like this where development is all around us. Even though we have created the life-estate and made the arrangements for the Historical Society to get this when we pass away, we will continue to pay the property taxes on it and maintain it as long as we’re alive."


Sharon points out, "You don’t have to be rich to do this type of thing. Anyone can do it. It’s actually a part of our estate planning. We worked with our financial advisor who looked at our goals and then helped us find a way to achieve our goals."

She said he pointed out that estate planning is deciding in advance who will get your property. She explained, "He told us, ‘Your property can go to your children, to charity or to the government. Now pick two.’ For us, it was easy to pick which two."

If some time down the road they do not want to continue paying taxes on the property, maintaining it or living there they can choose to make an earlier endowment.

To do something like this there are specific rules that donors must follow. One of them is that the recipient needs to be a non-profit organization.

As a non-profit organization the Richfield Historical Society has always had a special place in the Lofy’s hearts. They have both been involved in it from the start.

The location was established after Lofy began to notice the old abandoned grist mill that was across the road from his farm. It was on land he was renting and he kept looking at it and thinking it would be great to restore it.

Soon others in the community shared his interest and the Richfield Historical Society was formed to take on the task.

The Society now owns 29 acres and has established a living history museum on the farm with a collection of old-time farm buildings in addition to the grist mill that has been partially restored.


Lofy says by setting up the life estate rather than simply designating it in their will the Society can do some long-range planning.

"Because we are living yet we can help give some direction to the Historical Society on ideas for how to utilize the property when they take possession of it," Herb says. "Since it is a gift, we cannot dictate how the property can be used."

He does have a vision, though.

He shares, "The Historical Society received a large endowment of equipment from the Gehl Company when the company sold out. The company still maintains its own museum in West Bend but they donated many special items to the Historical Society. Those pieces are on display at our annual Thresheree but during the year they are stored at a couple different properties. This farm would be a great place to create a museum where the equipment could be on permanent display."

Lofy has a personal interest in the Gehl equipment, noting that Sharon’s dad worked for the company for 40 years and she also worked there. He says, "People around here are very familiar with the company. Gehl provided jobs for a lot of people for many years."

Gehl has been a fixture at the Richfield Thresheree. The company continues to provide in-kind help for the show and provide a tent to display the items.

As for creating a legacy to his own family, he says, "My great-grandfather had 14 children. He saw this area as the land of opportunity. He actually homesteaded on a neighboring farm in 1855 and this farm has been in the family since 1873."

At one time Herb and Sharon ran 400 acres. Now they own 154 acres and rent about 70 acres that they cash-crop. In 2005 they sold one of their farms to their son and they now rent land from him.

Herb admits he wasn’t always interested in history but as he got older and as he saw farms lost to development all around them he started thinking about his ancestors and the other farm families who cleared the land and established farms there.



In the past he used modern equipment and concentrated on developing an impressive herd of cows that eventually included a Red and White All-American Aged Cow. After he and Sharon sold their cows in 2000 he began to think more about restoring some of the older equipment.

His interest in restoring the old grist mill led to an interest in obtaining a threshing machine. After getting his first, an Avery, built in Peoria, IL, he acquired several others including some McCormicks, Red River Special (Oliver), Belle City, built in Racine, and a fully restored 28-inch John Deere. He went on to collect combines.

He’s so proud of his collection that their farm sign includes a large picture of his collection of green harvesting equipment including the John Deere threshing machine a John Deere Model 55 self-propelled combine and a 9500 John Deere combine.

He says, "Together they represent three generations of John Deere harvesting."

His dad threshed until 1966 and he remembers that the threshing business was also a social thing.

He knows the stories behind each of the numerous items in his growing farm equipment collection. He said those stories are what makes collecting fun.

He spends quite a bit of time visiting with other collectors and has also set out to collect stories about the many implement dealerships that once dotted the country side but have now gone out of business.

He also enjoys hearing the stories about the old mill, noting that the peak of the grist mill’s activity was in the World War I era.

The old water-wheel is missing but Lofy is hopeful that sometime in the future, once the foundation of the mill has been successfully repaired, the Historical Society will be able to obtain a water wheel and get the mill fully functional again.

Lofy barely remembers when the mill was in use. It was eventually converted for processing livestock feed and served local farmers, like his family, until the late 1940s or early 1950s.

At one time there were about 100,000 waterwheel mills in operation around the country. Towns were established along rivers because of the ability to capture the energy from the rushing water to operate saw mills and grist mills. Only a couple working mills exist today in Wisconsin.

Lofy says at one time there was a working sawmill on the Richfield site, too. The Historical Society hopes to also restore that in the future.



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