Kalona resident featured in new book on farmland legacies

For Release: September 20, 2016

KALONA, Iowa — Kalona resident Mary Swander, creator of the play “Map of My Kingdom” and other books and plays, is 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.

In the book, Mary writes about the success of “Map of My Kingdom,” which focuses on who will inherit the farmland. The play has been performed throughout Iowa and beyond, and is available on DVD at maryswander.com. “The farmland transfer issue is still urgent and is growing more so every day,” Mary writes. “If I ever doubt that ‘Map of My Kingdom’ is effective, I simply think back to the day that I was invited into a rural church basement in northeast Iowa to have coffee with eight widows pondering their transfer situations.”

“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.”

According to Teresa: “We are so pleased that so many like Mary were willing to contribute to 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]