Finnegan farm featured in Our Iowa magazine contest
By Molly Moser
“I think I saw your farm in a magazine!” said callers to the home of Michael and Lynne Finnegan, of Colesburg. Their family farm, purchased by Michael’s grandfather in 1949, was featured in Our Iowa Magazine as it progressed through the annual “Focus on Iowa Photo Contest.”
Cedar Rapids based photographer Tom Nugent flew over the area last fall in search of the perfect shot. “I wanted to get a picture of Guttenberg, since that’s where my grandparents lived and where my mom grew up,” explained Nugent. Each summer, after a few weeks in a cabin an Abel Island, Nugent’s parents would go back to Cedar Rapids and he’d stay in Guttenberg with grandparents, Herman and Lenchen Ihm.
The winning shot, says Nugent, was one of the first he saw that day from the helicopter. “It looked like Grant Wood had painted a painting right there in the landscape,” he told The Press. He asked pilot Fred Lansing to turn the helicopter around so he could get the right angle.
“He couldn’t have taken the picture at a better time,” said Finnegan. “Because the farm was freshly mowed, the corn was just starting to mature, and there was early morning fog over the Turkey River.” This angle, he says, is one he often admires from Millville Road, as it shows both his farm and the intersection of the Turkey and Mississippi Rivers.
“I was really happy with the picture,” Finnegan smiled. “I’m looking at it from a farmer’s standpoint. When we farm hills, we have so many conservation practices in effect. This picture shows about every conservation practice available to farmers.”
The image of Finnegan’s farm shows buffer strips 90-feet wide to protect soil from washing away, as well as field borders, grass waterways, a water collection pond, contour terraces, and earthen dams to protect waterways. “That’s what’s so nice about this picture,” he said, while pointing out CRP land and timber on his neighbors’ land.
Nugent received a gift subscription to Our Iowa Magazine, where he first noticed an ad for the magazine’s competition. “I’ve been an amateur photographer my whole live,” said Nugent, who normally photographs wildlife. “There’s nothing more beautiful than Northeast Iowa.” He entered the farm photo into one of four categories in the contest, and eventually won that category as well as the competition overall.
Finnegan and Nugent have never met, but Nugent wanted to give the Finnegan family a print of the prize-winning photograph. “The county assessor’s office called and said, ‘We have a picture for you.’” Nugent had paid a visit to the office in search of the owners of the land in his photograph. “Andy Loan, the county assessor, told him the land belonged to us, and he made sure we got a picture,” said Finnegan, who’s been farming the land since 1983.
Readers can look for the photograph in both the holiday issue and the preceding issue of Our Iowa.
Lynne and Michael raised two daughters, Brianna (16) and Michelle (21) on their farm. “I always tell the girls, ‘The farm will always be here,’” Finnegan chuckles. Now, thanks to Nugent, the Finnegan farm will be remembered at its prime for generations of the family to come.