Published May 27, 2015

Farmland Owners: Let’s Talk

By Teresa Opheim

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By Irene Frantzen

Do you own farmland? My husband Tom and I do, and that’s one reason we have taken a strong interest in the tremendous farmland transition that is taking place in Iowa.

Fifty-six percent of Iowa farmland is owned by people over the age of 65, according to Iowa State University. 30 percent of Iowa farmland is owned by those more than 75 years old.

We believe a lot of talking needs to take place to make this transition go more smoothly—talking among families, among farmland owners, among all of us.

Mary Swander’s play Map of My Kingdom and Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Farm Legacy Letter workshop are being offered June 6th in Washington to help start that conversation. Both tackle questions on land transition and family dynamics, and inspire dialogue and visioning for participants who own farm ground.

I have seen the play four times now, and my own community will host it in June. I had the privilege of attending the first Farm Legacy Letter workshop back in January, and found it meaningful to write my own letter. It was also wonderful to hear about others’ farming heritage and what they hope for the future.

For many of you, you may have decided to divide your farmland among your heirs in a financially equal way.  That is a good goal, and there are others as well. Think about these questions:

Could you use your farmland to help a beginning farmer get started?

Benefit your church or another organization by donating your farmland?

Do you want to make sure that your farmland stays farmland?

Do you want to make sure your family farm is able to continue in the next generation?

Do you want to use your farmland to increase conservation in the future?

There are so many other questions to ponder as well, and it helps to talk with others going through the same process.  Join Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Johnson County Women Land and Legacy and others on June 6th for this play and activities that will result in a draft letter of your farmland legacy by the end of the day.

Fellow farmland owners: Let’s start talking.

Irene Frantzen is a farmer from New Hampton and a member of the Practical Farmers of Iowa Farm Transfer Committee.

The performance of Map of My Kingdom and the Farm Legacy Letter Workshop will be held at the Washington Public Library 9 am-4:30 pm, Saturday, June 6th. For more information and to register, go to or contact Wren Almitra at the Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District office, 319-337-2322 x3 or