Published Nov 3, 2009

Calling all absentee landowners!

By Teresa Opheim

We need land for beginning farmers! PFI is committed to helping those new farmers hook up with absentee landowners who care about the future of sustainable agriculture in Iowa.

In our Fall newsletter, we feature one family who made the farmland transfer that needs to happen a thousand times over: PFI members Martha Shivvers Skillman and her sisters Charlotte Shivvers and Marietta Carr. The Shivvers sisters recently sold 160 acres to a distant cousin, Jim Petersen, to expand his farming operation so two of his children could farm with him.

In 2007, 55 percent of the farmland in Iowa was owned by people over the age of 65, and a quarter (28 percent) of the land was owned by people over 75 years old. How can we use the tremendous land turnover that will occur in the next decade to grow small and midsized farms like the Petersen’s?

In 1982, leased farmland was equally divided between cash rent and crop share leases. By 2007, 77 percent of the leased land was leased using cash rent. How can we increase the use of crop share leases to help lessen the risk for beginning farmers?

About 48 percent of Iowa’s landowners do not operate any of the land they own. How can we help landowners with no farm background understand the challenges of diversified farming and the need to help the new generation access land?