Published Jul 14, 2017

Some PFI Members and Why I Admire Them

By Teresa Opheim

They are leaders on farm transitions. (And there are so many more!)

Taste the Difference: Picking Pork Characteristics for Flavor

William Gilbert

The late William and Mary Gilbert, Iowa Falls, Iowa, for leaving an agricultural legacy. William and Mary rewarded their offspring according to the contributions they made to the farm. Their vision and practice made it easier for son John and wife, Beverly, to thrive today at their Gibralter Farm. Now John and Beverly are easing the way for the next generation to take over.

Susan Jutz, for her perseverance in finding the right person to be her successor, and then working hard to get the Solon, Iowa, business and land transferred to fellow PFI member Carmen Black. The farm is in a rapidly developing area, so Susan could have sold the land for a pretty penny to a non-farmer, but her goal was clear: Her land would remain a farm for a farmer to work.

Del Ficke

Del Ficke

 Del Ficke, Pleasant Dale, Nebraska, for his clarity that family—not land—comes first. The land has been in the Ficke Family seven generations now, but “the key is family,” Del says. “[My father] had a lifelong commitment to clearly communicate to all of us how we were the most essential part of keeping the farm going. We were his legacy, not the land and the livestock.”

Jim and Lisa French, Partridge, Kansas, for knowing there are ways to carry on your values even if your children don’t want to farm. “There is more to consider for the future beyond my family,” Jim writes. “I am not as concerned if my children don’t want to come back to farm, because I’m reinforcing my values in the community I live in. I hope I can have a community where kids can ride their bikes, enjoy nature, and have clean water. That’s our vision for rural America.”


Bonnie Haugen and her parents

Bonnie Haugen, Canton, Minnesota, for helping her father write a farm legacy letter to document some of the past, present and his future hopes for the farm. Bonnie and husband, Vance, are writing letters later this year as well, and Bonnie is arranging for other women to do the same. (There’s a helpful template available for writing your own at

Tom and Irene Frantzen for showing and sharing about what it takes to be a leader in this field. Says Tom: “When the older generation tries to dictate the vision for the younger generation, you have a lightning rod for future problems.” Irene adds: “If we said that our farm has to be an organic farm in the future, for example, we would be setting that vision for the next generation. Instead we, as the retiring couple, need to listen, to accept that the farm may look different in 10 years.”

Jim and LeeAnn VanDerPol, Kerkhoven, Minnesota, for being willing to share—and learn—as they work through the myriad of decisions involved in transferring the farm. Their situation has many of the elements farmland owners are facing—farming and non-farming heirs, grandchildren who also want to farm, land and business ownership decisions and more. They know we are on a journey, and connecting with fellow travelers helps ease the way.