Published May 9, 2011

Preserve your farm for the future

By Teresa Opheim

Calling all farmland owners: Let’s start a dialogue about how to preserve your farms for the future.

Tom and Irene Frantzen, who farm near New Hampton, have started that discussion in an article in the current Practical Farmer newsletter. The Frantzens plan to use an irrevocable trust to keep their 320 acres of organic row crops, pasture, and shelter belts together when they’re gone.

Tom and Irene are clear: “We want to prevent a situation where the land would be sold and the proceeds used for our care. It is fine to have the earnings of the land be used for our needs, but never the capital asset.”

“To protect the land, it has to go into an entity….Land is too valuable an asset to be owned by one individual. It’s too much risk. We have a real factor of intense concentration of wealth going on around here. People who have 3,000 acres of land paid for could buy land for $12,000 an acre. If this continues, we will be in a caste society. The power of concentrated wealth and the threat to our society is absolutely enormous,” Tom says.

Tom and Irene seem serene, even energized by the legacy planning they are doing. Despite the sometimes uncomfortable discussions on their mortality, they are proud they “are not living in denial. If we do nothing, we threaten all we’ve worked for.”