Founders of Hidden Falls LLC receive PFI’s 2023 Farmland Owner Legacy Award
Award calls attention to the role non-operator farmland owners play in the success of sustainable agriculture
Elizabeth Wilhelm | Media Relations Coordinator | (515) 232-5661 | email@example.com
AMES, Iowa (Sept. 14, 2023) — Practical Farmers of Iowa has awarded the 2023 Farmland Owner Legacy Award to the founding members of Hidden Falls LLC, for their efforts to create land access for beginning farmers while protecting ecologically sensitive land. The award was presented on Sunday, Sept. 10, at Humble Hands Harvest, in Decorah, Iowa, where 62 supporters gathered to celebrate the recipients.
The Farmland Owner Legacy Award is granted annually by Practical Farmers to landowners who use their land to help the next generation get started, advance land stewardship and promote long-term sustainability of farm businesses, environmental quality and rural communities.
“Hidden Falls LLC shows just how important cooperation and intentionality is to create much needed farmland access,” says Sally Worley, PFI’s executive director. “I applaud the group’s ability to come together, take a risk and give beginning farmers a chance.”
Hidden Falls LLC consists of 16 households that formed a partnership in 2014. Together, they developed a business plan and successfully purchased 22 acres of crop land in Decorah to prevent it from going to auction. After the purchase, members developed a democratic, cooperative structure within the LLC where one share equaled a half-acre of land and one vote in their decision-making processes.
The group agreed that the best use of the land would be to transfer it to PFI member Hannah Breckbill, a beginning farmer who founded Humble Hands Harvest, which she now operates with fellow PFI member Emily Fagan. Over the next eight years, Hidden Falls LLC worked together to transfer their shares to Humble Hands Harvest and lease the remaining land to them until they could afford to purchase the additional shares.
As of December 2022, Humble Hands Harvest owns the full 22 acres and the LLC has been dissolved, having successfully preserved the land for a diverse, community-enhancing farm.
“We were very excited that a number of people were willing to come together to make this happen,” says Perry-O Sliwa, a founding member of Hidden Falls LLC. “I admire Hannah and Emily’s broader vision and willingness to work on ideas bigger than just their own farm.”
Humble Hands Harvest now includes 2 acres of diversified vegetables, which cousins Hannah and Emily market through the Decorah Farmers Market, a small CSA, Iowa Food Hub and local restaurants. While vegetables are the primary source of income, they also have a flock of sheep and grow perennials that include chestnuts, apples, asparagus and oak trees. They also use several conservation practices, such as no-till and rotationally grazing sheep.
“As a beginning farmer, I never expected to own land,” Hannah says. “I saw the prices and thought, ‘There’s no way I can do this.’ It’s really cool that Hidden Falls LLC is willing to make decisions for the benefit of the land rather than the benefit of their pocketbooks.”
Members of Hidden Falls LLC include Janet Alexander, Hannah Breckbill, Pat Brockett, Barb Dale, Jim Dale, Deb Edwards, Rick Edwards, Julie Fischer, Rob Fischer, George Hagen, Joann Hagen, Louise Hagen, Eric Johnson, Pat Johnson, Paul Johnson, Chris Kelly, Lara Martinsen-Burrell, Neil Martinsen-Burrell, Elsa McCargar, Hannah McCargar, Steve McCargar, Kathryn Preston, David Sliwa, Perry-O Sliwa and Heidi Swets.
About Practical Farmers: Practical Farmers of Iowa is a nonprofit with more than 6,000 members that equips farmers to build resilient farms and communities. We create learning opportunities via farmer-led events, on-farm research and educational content through our robust network of farmers. We also provide funding and technical assistance to help farmers adopt regenerative farming practices and grow farm businesses. Our vision is an Iowa with healthy soil, healthy food, clean air, clean water, resilient farms and vibrant communities. To learn more, visit http://practicalfarmers.org.