She's a Marvel! Davis Donates Rights to 118 Acres for Farmland Preservation

She’s a Marvel! Davis Donates Rights to 118 Acres for Farmland Preservation

The land has been in the family for generations. The 118 acres in Big Rock Township includes the site of the Big Rock Plow Match, which has been part of Kane County history since 1895. And now, its legacy will be the preservation of open space for generations to come.

That announcement, made at Thursday’s Agriculture Committee meeting, was a “marvel”of sorts — a word that works just fine, because it not only describes Kane County’s benefactor but serves as her first name.

Marvel Davis has offered to donate the development rights to 118.54 acres of property made of up three parcels. No action was taken at the Thursday meeting, and the report to Agriculture Committee members was “just to let them know she offered,” said Kane County Development Department Executive Planner Janice Hill.

From here, the property has to go through the Farmland Protection Program application process. It will be appraised and surveyed, lawyers will draft a bunch of documents, and the item will come back to the Agriculture Committee for consideration, most likely in a month. From there, it will go through the committee process until it reaches the full County Board.

Under the agreement, Davis continues to own the property, but the land becomes part of the farmland protection program and remains open space for perpetuity.

“The subject property is a valid candidate for the Farmland Protection Program because it is a viable Heritage Farm,” the staff report says. Designation of the subject property would mark the first farmland protected under the Farmland Protection Program south of U.S. Route 30.

The application form says Davis intends for the farmland to continue generating an income that will be donated to several local non-profit organizations. She was instrumental in the formation of the Big Rock Historical Society and served as its president. She donated the corn crib that has been converted to a historic museum and meeting room. She has previously donated property to the Kane County Farmland Protection Program and made charitable contributions to Aurora University and other organizations, and she has been active in Kane County historic preservation.

“No individual has done more to preserve farmland or the agricultural nature of the township than Marvel Davis,” the application form says.

History of the Big Rock Plow Match

SOURCE: Big Rock Plow Match website

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The first Big Rock Plowing Match was started in 1895 to provide a competition for farmers to plow against one another. The rules that were established are still followed today. Some wording has changed but they are basically the same. In 1895 horses and mules were used and we still have classes for horses and mules, but it has been 9 or 10 years since we have had an entry.

The Plowing Match was originally held on the 4th Saturday of September. Over the years three other regional matches stopped their competitions. So 28 years ago Big Rock moved their plowing match to the third weekend in September and in 1950 it was made into a two day event. Today we still plow with antique tractors both steel and rubber tire also one and two bottom plows are used.

Shortly after the Plowing Match was established a Ladies Fair was started and it is still active today. Until 1950 a Saturday dinner was cooked at the field where they plowed. At that time the Big Rock Plowing Match Association purchased 20 acres and started the 2-day event. They also started offering Saturday and Sunday dinners along with a Junior Fair for children to enter, a Horse Show, Beef Show, Carnival, Pedal Tractor Pull, Horseshoe Tournament, and many other activities.

This one of the last plowing match competitions still in existence in the U.S.

About the Property

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  • Property Name: Marvel Davis Farm
  • Property Owners: Marvel Davis Trust
  • Location of Property: Big Rock Township
  • Total Acres: 118.54
  • Land Use: Agriculture
  • Zoning: Section 21 parcel, under Village of Big Rock jurisdiction; Sections 27 & 34 parcels, F – Farming
  • 2040 Land Use Designation: Section 21 parcel, Village of Big Rock; Sections 27 & 34 parcels, Agriculture

Location and Context

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The subject properties are approximately 1.8 miles apart. The property in Section 21 is composed of a single parcel and is located within the incorporated boundary and jurisdiction of the Village of Big Rock, in central Big Rock Township. The Future Land Use Plan of the Village of Big Rock Comprehensive Land Use Plan has designated most of this parcel as Agriculture, although the northern portion has been designated Institutional. However, the Village of Big Rock is currently undergoing an update to their comprehensive plan, so it is uncertain whether these land use designations will remain the same.

The property located in Sections 27 and 34 is composed of two parcels, directly adjacent to the Village of Big Rock and Kane County Forest Preserve property, in south-central Big Rock Township. These parcels are within the Village of Big Rock’s 1 1⁄2 mile planning area. As such, the Village’s Future Land Use Plan designates Agriculture as the intended future use of these parcels. However, as previously noted, this designation could change with the adoption of the Village’s new comprehensive plan.

None of the subject parcels are within the Facility Planning Area of any sanitary district. As defined by the Kane County 2040 Conceptual Land Use Strategy, all subject parcels are located within the Agricultural/Food, Farm, Small Town Area.

None of the subject parcels are located adjacent to existing agricultural easements designated through the Kane County Farmland Protection Program; the nearest easements in Big Rock Township are clustered beginning about 1 mile north of the parcel in Section 21.

All subject parcels are used agriculturally, and have been for over 175 years. The Section 21 parcel is used for the Big Rock Plowing Match each year and is rotated in small grains, corn or soybeans (see Historical Information box). The Section 27 and 34 parcels are planted in corn or soybeans.