Knoxville farmland owners featured in new book

For Release: September 19, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Martha Skillman and Charlotte Shivvers, both of rural Knoxville, are featured in a new book, “The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers’ Legacy Letters Project,” just published by University of Iowa Press.

The book gathers the letters and stories of families about the land they cherish – how they acquired it, what they treasure most about it and their hopes for its future. Some of the writers descend from families who have owned a particular patch of earth since the 1800s, while others became farmland owners more recently. Some in the book are no longer farmland owners at all, because after careful thought about what matters most to them, they sold their land to the next generation of farmers.

Martha, Charlotte and their sister, the late Marietta Carr, grew up on the family farm but left in the 1940s after finishing high school. After they inherited 520 acres from their parents in 1990, Charlotte and Martha both moved back to the farm (Charlotte to the farmhouse with her husband Bob Baker and Martha to the hired man’s house) and formed a partnership they named Shivvers Fair Acres. They eventually settled on Jim Petersen and his family as renters, and the Petersens began making the conservation changes that the Shivvers sisters wanted. Since then, the Shivvers sisters have been working with the Petersens to sell parcels of their land at terms and timing the Petersens can afford and that include a commitment to the sisters’ stewardship values.

Teresa Opheim, Farm Transfer Program director with Practical Farmers of Iowa, compiled the volume and says: “We are so pleased that so many farmland owners like Martha and Charlotte are willing to share their stories for this book. They are leaders in tackling farmland succession issues, which are affecting so many people. Forty percent of America’s farmland is owned by those ages 65 and older, so now more than ever, it is time for farmland owners to think through the legacy they want to leave behind.”

The book is receiving national attention. “The Future of Family Farms is a timely and important new book,” says Julia Freedgood of the American Farmland Trust. “The Practical Farmers’ stories are both moving and relevant, reinforcing the need for families not only to have shared commitment but also a vision and plan for the future – whether they’ve been farming for more than a hundred years or are beginning farmers.”

According to Jim Habana Hafner of Land for Good, based in New Hampshire, “PFI and its members are an inspiration! They remind us all that family, community and stewardship are at the heart of farming. Their stories are a call to action to everyone who ‘belongs to the land’: Start the conversation today about your farm’s legacy.”

To order the book, visit www.uiowapress.org/books/2016-fall. Help for writing your own farm legacy letter is available at www.practicalfarmers/org/farmtransfer.

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Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit http://practicalfarmers.org.

Contacts:

Teresa Opheim | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]