Partridge, KS couple featured in new book on farmland legacies

For Release: September 19, 2016

PARTRIDGE, Kansas — Jim and Lisa French of Partridge are among the more than 25 farmland owners featured in a new book, “The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers’ Legacy Letters Project.”

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 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.

Jim French’s connection with the farm dates back to 1872, when his ancestor homesteaded on the land; Lisa grew up 5 miles from the farm. In their farm legacy letters, Jim and Lisa documented the highs and lows they have had since 1979, when they started farming full-time. Working with children on 4-H projects, holding parties and appreciation for the natural world fill their letters, as well as dealing with machinery breakdowns and volatile weather.

The Frenchs’ two children are attorneys in Kansas City and may not be interested in farming in the future. “If a family member wants to continue to farm and meet our conservation goals, than that should happen,” Jim says. “If not, I would like to find someone in the community to do that . . . . I hope I can have a community where kids can ride their bikes, enjoy nature and have clean water. That’s our vision for rural America.”

“The most positive thing we’ve done here is improve the soil,” Lisa writes. “We’d like someone to take over [the operation] who recognizes the value of this management system. It would be a shame to lose the improvements in soil and habitat.”

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 Jim and Lisa 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]