Published Dec 18, 2018

Event Recap: 2018 Next Generation Summit

By Greg Padget

Practical Farmers of Iowa hosted its first Next Generation Summit in August. This event is designed to bring together aspiring farmers and farmland owners. Inside the brick walls of the former Maytag headquarters in Newton, 16 landowners came together with 19 aspiring farmers to set goals and network. Many met someone that day to help them reach those goals and everyone left with the tools and the confidence to do so in the future.

Landowners sharing goals and visions for their land with each other

Landowners sharing their goals and vision for their land with each other.

Farmland owners assembled to make progress on their priority goals for the future of their farmland. At the beginning of the session, they went around and gave a brief introduction as to why they were there. The right people were in the room! They included:

  • Siblings working together to make their goals for the future of their family farmland a reality.
  • Farmland owners with grown children who do not at this time plan to farm themselves, though they may retain ownership. These landowners are interested in finding a non-descendant to farm in a way that furthers the work that has been done to diversify the farm and improve soil health.
  • Farmland owners interested in helping someone start a new enterprise on their land.
  • Farmland owners who have created habitat-rich and agronomically-sound farm, interested in selling the farm to someone interested in continuing the legacy they started.

Attendees learned about common goals that have been generously shared by fellow Practical Farmers’ members to help others figure out what matters most with their farmland. As landowners have realized through this process, it is important to know your goals for the future of your farmland, and equally important to communicate these goals to family members.

Attendees then started defining primary goals for their farmland. They broke into groups to share their thoughts and get peer feedback. Lifetime member Peg Bouska said, “Even though my sisters and I have done a lot of work on farm transfer, I got a lot out of the retreat. It helped me realized people spend a long time working on farm transfer before they make decisions. We want to make the right decisions for our farmland, and this retreat helped me feel that it is okay to slow down to be able to do that.”

The aspiring farmers who joined the summit immersed themselves into setting goals based on their values and farming visions. As aspiring farmers the passion and drive to farm already exist, often the thing missing to put that to work is the farmland. The goal of the day was to help them define their values and determine how those can impact their future farming operation. When reflecting back on the workshop, Michael Christl said, “It made me focus and think about the specific direction and next steps in my ag adventure”.

land owners and aspiring farmers networking

Land owner and aspiring farmers getting to know each other.

As these aspiring farmer shared their farming visions, you could see the diversity of ideas and enterprises in the room. Some aspired to have a few enterprises and keep their operation simple, others had grand visions of juggling multiple enterprises that all piqued their interest. After reviewing their goals and prioritizing those goals they were able to make some action steps to reach closer to completing these visions.

Many of these aspiring farmers are still searching for land, a delicate task to maneuver. After refining their farm visions, it was time to use their vision to find land. Farmland comes with great emotional ties and passing that land on to another farmer means a great deal. These aspiring farmers worked on drafting their elevator speeches as a way to share the vision they have for a farm to those who have the farmland. These talking points would then be used later in the summit when meeting with the farmland owners in attendance.

Another tool that Practical Farmers created is called Find A Farmer. This website is a match-making site for land owners and land seekers. Next Generation Coordinator, Steve Carlson, shared with everyone how to set up a strong profile to showcase your land if you’re a land owner or your business idea if you are a land seeker. Watch for an updated Find A Farmer in early 2019.

Rory Van Wyk sharing his experiences as a beginning farmer and seeking land

Rory Van Wyk sharing his experiences as a beginning farmer and seeking land.

The evening concluded with some snacks and beverages as the aspiring farmers and land owners chatted and go to know each other. Rory Van Wyk spoke to the crowd about his experiences moving from an aspiring farmer to finding land and making his dream reality. He was connected to his farmland though a connection made on Find A Farmer and has used many of the programs offered by Practical Farmers to further his knowledge in farming.

Hopefully a few elevator speeches where tested and some connection where made. Many left that evening having a better understanding of their goals and visions, with some tools and connections to bring them to reality. Lifetime member Peg Bouska said, “It was really encouraging to see all those beginning farmers. We worry that nobody will want to farm in the rural area where our family farmland is. But there were a lot of people at the retreat who want to go to these rural places and build community.”