Published Sep 5, 2014

“Come see the flax in bloom!”

By Teresa Opheim
Photo courtesy of Luliel del Angel

Photo courtesy of Luliel del Angel

I am so pleased that the PFI Board of Directors chose the Shivvers sisters to receive our second annual Farmland Owner Award. There couldn’t be more deserving winners. Martha Skillman and Charlotte Shivvers are good examples of those raised in Iowa who left for years, then came back to improve our state through their work as farmland owners.  Recently their sister Marietta Carr moved back to Iowa as well to a memory care facility.

Practical Farmers first presented the Farmland Owner Award last year to Ames resident and Pocahontas County farmland owner Helen Gunderson. The award is given to those who own farmland but do not labor on it and have shown a commitment to the next generation and land stewardship. For more on the award, see our press release:

The Shivvers’ affection for Iowa and their land runs deep. Their parents not only instilled in them the responsibility of but also the joy in farming. “My father was a leader in contour farming, terraces, rotating crops, new crops,” Charlotte says, and she remembers him coming to the door and calling to his wife to “get the girls, the flax is in bloom!”

Charlotte, Martha and Marietta inherited 520 acres of farmland in the Knoxville area in 1990. From the start of their new role as landowners, the sisters sought to find a tenant who would farm the land sustainably. The search took them 12 years, but they found the tenants they were looking for in PFI members James and Julie Petersen.  A few years later, the sisters sold 160 acres to the Petersens and since have started renting their remaining 320 acres to them.