Rick Newton has called northern Miami County home his entire life.
He and his siblings attended a one-room schoolhouse in the Antioch area north of Hillsdale Lake and later Spring Hill High School like his father before him. His great grandchildren are now the fifth-generation to attend Spring Hill schools.
His father, Richard, started farming the land west of Spring Hill in 1949, and the family purchased the land in the early 1970s.
For as long as Rick can remember, the land has featured a little less than 30 acres of natural prairie on the northwest corner of 223rd Street and Cedar Niles Road.
“It was decent hay,” Rick said of the land, remembering that it would take his father more than two days to mow the property using an old sickle blade. Now, Rick can accomplish the task in about five hours.
Rick said his father would burn off the field every few years for maintenance, but for the most part it was left to grow as nature intended.
Rick doesn’t have to go far to enjoy the beauty of the field since he built a house on the property more than 40 years ago. His sisters, Marsha Hale and Cheryl Emmot, also have stayed close by. Cheryl lives in their family’s old farm house, and Marsha lives just a few miles away.
Their mother Estaleen died about 30 years ago, and their father passed away a couple of years ago, but their family traditions live on throughout all aspects of the farm, including the name.
“Dad always said he lived on Poverty Knob,” Rick said, adding that he and his sisters realized that had to be the name they went with for the farm moving forward. They even have decorative rocks now that say Poverty Knob Farm.
Throughout the years, the beauty of the prairie has captured the attention of more than just the Newton family members.
“KU sent one of their classes out and the students wrote down what they found in the field,” Rick said. “There were hundreds of flowers.”
The prairie has also captured the attention of Lesley Rigney, the manager of the Miami County Conservation District.
The district is honoring Rick, Marsha and Cheryl for maintaining the prairie by naming them one of this year’s grassland award winners.
“We are highlighting this year a few of the landowners who have stewarded/managed the rare remaining remnant prairies in the county,” Rigney said.
Rick continues to maintain the prairie by burning it off every three years, and it is due to be burned this spring. He thanked Johnson County Fire District No. 2 for working with him and supporting the burns.
Enjoyment of the farm and prairie has spread throughout his family, Rick said, adding that his grandson now has bee boxes on the field. It reminds Rick of all the bumblebees he used to see growing up while baling hay with his father.
“The prairie was always full of them,” he said. “It’s always been special to us.”