Growing Towards a Sustainable Future

Blog headers (1)

From left to right, Spencer Smith, Duane Robson, Nancy Coan, Henry Coan, and Kurt Robson.

The Coans Family Legacy

Retired schoolteachers Nancy and Henry Coan epitomize the notion of lifelong learning. Their journey into the world of farmland ownership is not just a tale of acquiring property; it’s a narrative of exploration, education, and unwavering commitment to conservation. With a keen eye for sustainability, the Coans approach their role as landowners with a sense of purpose and curiosity.

“Keep the farms in good shape and make improvements, when necessary,” explained Henry simply. “That’s our goal, to set up the next generation for success.”

While the Coans enjoy spending time on their farms, walking and viewing the wildlife habitat, their connection to the farms is also deeply rooted in history that spans back over 200 years ago.

Rooted in History

The Coans have a treasure trove of historical tales tied to their farms, but a few stories stand out among the rest. Henry, brimming with enthusiasm, urged his wife to recount the story of her great-great-great-grandfather’s notable nose. Nancy gladly obliged, sharing the tale of the first ancestor to claim ownership of their farm in Vermillion County, IN.

Back in 1808, this ancestor resided in a house on the property. As a circuit lawyer, his work often took him on travels far from home. One evening, returning from his journey, he encountered a group of Native Americans. Despite mutual apprehension, whether illuminated by firelight or moonlight, the Indians managed to catch a glimpse of his face. “They called him ‘Big Nose, Big Vermillion,’ and allowed him to pass without incident,” Nancy recounted. “My mother always liked telling that story, convinced she inherited not just the land, but also that distinctive nose,” Nancy added with a chuckle.

Alongside their collection of tales, the Coans proudly possess the original land grants for the property in Indiana signed by President Andrew Jackson. “They’re pretty faded and somewhat hard to read,” explained Henry. “But as a retired history teacher, it’s pretty neat to have a piece of history connected to something that your family owns.”

Although the Coans could easily compile a book detailing a myriad of historical events surrounding their farms, it’s evident that their pride extends beyond mere ownership. They are also very passionate about upholding and preserving this rich history of farmland, ensuring it endures for generations to come

Productivity and Sustainability

Today, the Coans own 435 acres between Illinois and Indiana, managed by Hertz Farm Manager, Spencer Smith, AFM, ALC. Spencer collaborates with the Coans to oversee all aspects of the farms, striving for continuous improvement.

“We partner with four different operators across these farms,” Spencer explained. “Nancy and Henry have a focus of sustainability, which drives us to improve the farms, and optimize productivity. We’ve successfully executed numerous projects and even managed to finish a large tile project on a recently acquired farm. By working with the farm operator to plan cropping rotations we were able to secure a significant discount on the tile project by installing the tile in the summer months following winter wheat and then double cropping soybeans, following the tile installation.” Additionally, the family has terraces, land enrolled in CRP, and filter strips.

“Spencer has done a really good job and understands our goals as landowners,” chimed Nancy. “He understands that our goal is to be able to pass our farms on to the next generation and keep them in good shape.”

Additionally, Nancy commended Spencer’s diligent communication through calls, texts, and detailed reports. Henry echoed her sentiments, expressing gratitude for the insightful reports. “I gain new insights every time. It’s invaluable,” he added.

Kurt Robson shows Henry Coan around the combine cab.

“We truly appreciate Spencer’s efforts in managing our farms,” Henry acknowledged. “But we’d also like to point out how blessed we are with our farmer operators. They’ve done a monumental job of getting good production and keeping the soil and land in top condition so it can be passed down. They do an excellent job.”

“It takes a team,” Spencer added. “And fortunately, we’ve got a really good one in place.”

Expanding Through Real Estate

The Coans, in addition to their commitment to productivity and sustainability, have expanded their operations by acquiring another farm.

Last fall, the Coans purchased a farm in Piatt County, IL that has some land enrolled in CRP. “This is our first year with that farm, so we are excited about that,” said Nancy. “The timing was right, and we got a good deal, it just made sense.” The farm has a mixture of CRP and high-quality farmland.

Henry and Nancy also expressed how they are fond of wildlife habitat and enjoy hiking. “When our kids think of farms, that’s what they think about, the wildlife,” said Henry. “And we enjoy being outside and just enjoying time on the farms.”

Spencer joked a few times that he would be on the lookout for more farms for them to potentially buy. “It has to be the right farm,” jested Henry. “But yes, we’re open to it if the situation arises.”

Growing Towards the Future

Nancy and Henry have their eyes set on the next generation and preparing for the farms to be passed down to their granddaughters. “We’d like to improve the land as much as we can before we pass it on to our granddaughters,” explained Nancy. “We’re slowly trying to get them involved so that someday they understand the value of what they’ve inherited.”

“Keeping the soil healthy and the land in good shape is something that we can do now to set up our family for success in the future,” explained Henry. “That’s our mindset right now, make the most out of what we have and make it sustainable for the future.”

As Nancy and Henry gaze toward the horizon of the future, their dedication to stewarding their land for the next generation shines brightly. With a clear focus on passing down not just a piece of property, but a legacy of care and sustainability, they are actively involving their granddaughters in the process. Their commitment to nurturing the soil and preserving the land reflects a profound understanding of the responsibility they bear as custodians of their family’s heritage. As they continue their journey, Nancy and Henry exemplify the timeless values of foresight, diligence, and love for both land and family, ensuring a lasting legacy that will endure for generations to come.

Related Articles


Auction Calendar