Todd Price — the son of a farmer named Van and a teacher named Jan — has been the director of Historic Wagner Farm in Glenview since 2001.
How fitting is that?
“It’s as much of a farm as it is a museum,” Todd Price, 46, says of the 18.6-acre farm, one of the first working dairy farms in Cook County that is open to the public for recreation and learning.
“My dad [who died, at the age of 70, in 2009] was my hero, and I still think about him all the time. He worked incredibly hard on our farm in Iowa; his thing was, ‘Be proud of what you do.’ My mom [a former teacher at Wescott Elementary in Northbrook] got me into history. I went to Civil War re-enactments with her in Missouri, starting when I was 10. I wasn’t allowed to hold a musket at one of those until I was 16.”
After ordering coffee, scrambled eggs and biscuits with gravy at Egg Harbor Café in Glenview, the genial graduate of Clarinda High School in Iowa and Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, informs me he is reading a book about General George Custer. Minutes later he recounts a rewarding moment at Historic Wagner Farm.
“I’m leading a class one day, and the kids were totally into it,” Price recalls. “Remember, we have great props there — animals and crops. The kids were so excited that day that they beat me to the door of a building I was going to show them. That kind of excitement thrilled me.
“I’m a teacher at heart. I’m a historian. And I love farming.”
Born in Evanston, Price lived in Northbrook for five years before moving to Iowa with his family and playing football — as a second-string linebacker and offensive lineman — for the Clarinda High Cardinals. He also kept stats for the varsity basketball team in the winter months and served as a technical crew member for the drama club.
“I never started a football game, but that didn’t matter to my dad, who showed up for every one of my games,” Price says.
Price was a double major (history and education) at Simpson College, where his future wife, Laura (an accountant), also attended. Price was ranching in Montana, and Laura was living in Des Moines, when the two connected in South Dakota during their courtship in the mid-1990s. Todd proposed marriage to Laura in Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace Festival. (Both wore ear-to-ear smiles that day).
Price landed his first job in the museum field as an assistant site director at Living History Farms in Des Moines. After two years there, he spent two years with Museums at Prophetstown — located in a state park — in West Lafayette, Indiana.
His first day at Historic Wagner Farm was October 1, 2001.
“I remember the potential of the farm,” Price says. “It was raw, run down. But to me it was also cool; it was the original thing. I could not wait to get started.”
Nearly 3,000 people of all ages visited the farm on Wagner Road in Price’s first year (2001-02) as director.
The approximate number of visitors to date, in 2016-17: 130,000.
“You want to hear something fun?” Price says. “The first class to visit the farm in my first year was a class from Wescott Elementary, where my mom taught.”
Historic Wagner Farm has won numerous awards on Price’s watch. It received the prestigious Midwest Museum Institutional Achievement Award in 2014; the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA) recognized the farm’s Dairy Breakfast as an Event of the Year; and the same organization once selected the farm’s Heritage Center — containing interactive exhibits where visitors can learn about farming from the early 20th century to the present — as its Building of the Year.
The Soccer Player of the Year in Todd Price’s life every year?
Cassidy Price, his daughter. The 2017 Glenbrook South High School graduate is a freshman women’s soccer player at Simpson College, patrolling acreage on pitches as a tenacious, talented Storm defender. Simpson is scheduled to play 20 matches this fall.
The proud dad has planned to attend eight of them.
“I love watching my daughter play soccer,” Price says. “Her resilience … the way she came back from a major knee injury [ACL tear, in her sophomore season] was so impressive. She’s so tough, and she loves to compete. I’ve always admired how hard Cassidy works at the game.”
Van Price must have felt the same way.
Todd Price and Cassidy, right before Cassidy headed to college for preseason soccer training in August, took a canoe trip together. The journey started at the north branch of the Chicago River, behind Historic Wagner Farm.
More than eight hours later, they arrived near downtown Chicago, a couple of smiling — and exhausted — Prices.
The adventure for both, in a nutshell?
Historic Wagner Farm is located at 1510 Wagner Road in Glenview. For more information, please call (847) 657-1506 or visit glenviewparks.org/historicwagnerfarm.