Solon’s Two Horse Farm acquired by Johnson County Conservation Board

The farm, 83 acres in size, will work to conserve the land and open it for public use. The acquisition cost $1.2 million with $300,000 in grants helping to purchase it.


Matt Sindt

The old red barn, built in 1913, at Two Horse Farm, which was purchased by Johnson County. Sept. 27, 2022.

Alejandro Rojas, News Reporter

The Johnson County Conservation Board recently acquired 83 acres of Two Horse Farms in Solon, with seven acres donated to the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

The land was obtained through a donation and purchase agreement between the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and former owners of the property Erin and Brian Melloy, according to the board’s press release. The land acquisition, located on 2257 Sugar Bottom Road NE, was announced by the board on Sept. 12.

Map by Jami Martin-Trainor/The Daily Iowan

Brad Freidhof, conservation board manager, said the process began with the former owners. 

“The people that had owned it, they wanted something that would have a conservation element in it, right? When they look at a lot of Johnson County, we see a lot of development, which growth and development is good,” he said. “But that has to be balanced with preservation and protection. And so, the legacy they wanted to leave was protection, conservation land for people, as well as all the natural things that occurred on their property.”

Freidhof said the acquisition cost $1.2 million, with $300,000 being covered by a REAP grant and the remainder by the conservation board.

Erin Melloy, the former owner, said she and her husband started the search for someone to buy the land   and conserve it two years ago.

“It started out of a desire over many generations of keeping the land alive. And once we restored it back to its foundation, we wanted to keep it that way,” Melloy said. “And my husband and I have lived there for the last 10 years and worked the land, and so we wanted to make sure that the work that what we’ve done wouldn’t revert back to an unhealed, unhealthy property.” 

After meeting with different groups, Melloy said the choice to pick the conservation board was an easy one.

“They saw the future potential of the property as well as the condition that the property was in and a desire to help maintain it, and then take it to the next level,” Melloy said. 

Conservation is a big point for Melloy, as the property dates back to the 1890s, including a barn from 1913. Her family first purchased the property in 1978 and has restored it over the years.

One group excited about acquisition is the Raptor Advocacy Rehabilitation and Education Group, a local nonprofit that focuses on education for and the rehabilitation of birds of prey. Founded in 2015, the group currently uses the barn to rehabilitate birds.

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Sonja Hadenfeldt, the group’s coordinator, said the land becoming public allows the group to invite people to come and see the birds and to spread the message of conservation for birds of prey.

“Hopefully with this partnership with Johnson County, we’ll be able to do programs right there on site, you know, maybe even a couple of times a month or a lot more often. And then those birds will also be on display, even if we aren’t doing a program, you can go out there,” Hadenfeldt said.

For Melloy, the hope is that the land will remain conserved and appreciated by the public.

“Our hope is that people just come to respect the land and learn and slow down and enjoy life,” she said. “And, you know, we hope that they come in, they appreciate the difference, and the work and the love and the time that went into restoring this property for the future.”

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