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Healthy Now, But Thinking About the Next Generation

This week’s farm transfer leaders are the Bouska sisters, fifth-generation farmers and owners of 435 acres they grew up on near Protivin, Iowa. The sisters—Peg Bouska, Carol Bouska, Ann Novak and Sally McCoy—are using family meetings to begin thinking about the legacy they want to leave behind with their farmland.

The Bouskas’ father Edward, was born on the farm, the third generation on the land. He and his wife, Elmarie, raised their children there; all cherished the farm and family, but none stayed to farm the land. Both Ed and Elmarie died on the farm.

Bouska sisters

Farmland owning sisters Peg Bouska, Carol Bouska, Ann Novak and Sally McCoy

After the Bouska children inherited the farm in 2009, they incorporated it into an LLP, with each sibling owning a share. Their brother, Jack, sadly died in 2014. Their partnership agreement stated that when one partner dies, the other partners could buy out his or her share, which the four sisters then did after their brother’s death. This arrangement keeps control of the LLP with the siblings and limits—for now—the number of partners.

Although all the sisters are healthy, “we are starting to think about the next generation now,” says Carol.  “and all that needs to be done on the farm, and how long we will be able to do it.”

Peg, Carol, Ann and Sally had one of their partner meetings at the farm in July, and, along with tackling the details that come with farm ownership, they set one goal for the meeting: “To share individual partner long-term goals for the Highland Farm, and to understand each other’s goals.”

In advance of the meeting, Carol and Peg shared with their sisters Practical Farmers’ goal-setting exercise, a sample farm legacy letter and a guide from Land for Good on Farm Transfer Planning for those without an identified successor. “Peg and I asked each of the partners (sisters) to complete the goals exercise before the meeting,” Carol reports.  “At the meeting, we went around and shared our goals, each with 15 minutes to share and to get clarification. Then we had an open discussion.  It was surprising how similar our goals were. There were some different ones, but we had 4 shared goals.”

Their shared goals were:

  • Use the farmland to help stem the tide of land consolidation.
  • Use the farmland to conserve or improve soil, increase biodiversity, improve water quality and other conservation.
  • Keep family harmony and foster positive relationships among family members.
  • Provide safe and healthy food.

“The next day, we shared our common goals from the meeting with our kids and spouses. We wanted them to hear the goals, but also to understand the process, and that we are trying to be very intentional about the planning.  I think that I can say for everyone, that it was a very successful meeting, and a first step. “

Carol adds: “We also thanked our ancestors for doing the hard work and planning that got us to the point that we were at that day.”

The sisters now plan to write farm legacy letters before their next meeting.

 

For the farmland goal setting exercise and a template for writing a farm legacy letter, see: www.practicalfarmers.org/farmtransfer

For the Land for Good guide on farm transfer planning for those without an identified successor, see www.landforgood.org

Bouska farm ariel

A view of the Bouska farm near Protivin, Iowa