Mason City couple featured in new book on farmland legacies

For Release: September 19, 2016

MASON CITY, Iowa — Mason City residents Barb and Wayne Opheim are featured in a new book on farmland legacies, which has been compiled by their daughter, Teresa Opheim, a 1979 graduate of Mason City High School. The book, “The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers’ Legacy Letters Project,” was published by University of Iowa Press this month.

“The Farm Legacy Letters project is meant to help farmers and farmland owners think about their farm’s future and talk about it with their families,” says Teresa, who directs the Farm Transfer Program at Practical Farmers of Iowa. “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 – one as recently as 2015. Some 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.”

In the book, Barb Opheim tells about her family first farming the land in 1886. Her father was born on the farm in 1904 and she was born on the same farm in 1935. The family raised oats, corn, soybeans and hay and also had chickens, hogs, sheep, beef and dairy cattle, as well as large gardens. Today she and Wayne rent the farmland, which is planted to corn and soybeans.

According to Barb, she would prefer to keep her farmland in the family and in one parcel when she and husband Wayne pass on, but she is fine with her four children selling it as well once they inherit it. “My top goal for my farmland is keeping family harmony,” Barb says. “I do not want my heirs to fight because of this land.”

“I am pleased that my mother and father and so many farmland owners were willing to share their stories in the book,” Teresa says. “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 to think seriously about the legacy you want to leave with your farmland. In Iowa, 35 percent of farmland owners, like my parents, are over the age of 75.”

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]