Beginning Farmers, Farm Succession Are Hot Topics In January

Beginning Farmers, Farm Succession Are Hot Topics In January

Different Iowa groups are sponsoring conferences and workshops addressing farm succession and beginning farmer issues.

The Coalition to Support Iowa Farmers winter workshop/conference is coming up and registration is now open for the January 23 event. The future of livestock production, which is the focus of CSIF, will interest beginning farmers. However, the CSIF annual "Farming for the Future" conference isn't the only such event being held this January. There are two more programs covering various aspects of transitioning farms from one generation to the next. Iowa State University's Beginning Farmer Center has a seminar program called "Returning To The Farm" and Practical Farmers of Iowa will hold several events and workshops along this general theme at PFI's annual conference in January.

FUTURE OF FARMING: The Coalition To Support Iowa's Farmers, ISU's Beginning Farmer Center and Practical Farmers of Iowa are all three sponsoring different workshops this winter that have to do with farm succession, transitioning of farms from one generation to the next, helping young people get started in farming, etc.

"Farming for the Future" conference registration now open
The CSIF 2015 "Farming for the Future" conference, themed The Risk and Reward of Livestock Production, is coming up January 23 at Ames. The event will be held at the Quality Inn & Suites in Ames from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This annual conference is sponsored by the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers.

"CSIF is thrilled to have Dr. David Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech, make a return appearance at this year's conference to address the financial feasibility of livestock production," says Brian Waddingham, executive director of CSIF. He points out that the margins in agriculture have flipped. The grain industry, where the easy money has been made in recent years, is now facing financial trauma.

Deadline for pre-registration for this one is January 19
However, the livestock industry is now hotter than a pepper sprout, bringing profits and prosperity to producers, notes Waddingham. What are the strategic factors that will impact economic health and duration of this cycle? How can one successfully manage in the livestock industry and mitigate risk? Is livestock the right choice for you? This high energy session will draw upon Dr. Kohl's interaction with industry thought leaders to discuss best management practices for long term success.


"This is an event you don't want to miss, and there's no cost to attend," says Waddingham. "Check out the agenda and reserve your seat at The deadline for pre-registration is January 19."

ISU's Beginning Farmer Center is also offering seminars
The Beginning Farmer Center at Iowa State University will again this year hold its "Returning To The Farm" seminar. This is one of the oldest continuously offered beginning farmer seminars in the nation and, fortunately, the dates of the seminar do not conflict with either the Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference or the CISF winter workshop. 

The "Returning To The Farm" program (formerly known as Ag Link) is a 4-day seminar for farm family business owners to develop a farm business succession/transition plan.  The 2015 sessions will be held January 16 & 17, 2015 and February 13 & 14, 2015 at the Gateway Center in Ames, Iowa. All of these sessions are intended for farm families bringing the next generation back to the farm to live and work. Additional details and registration information can be found online.

"It's great to see all these programs being offered on farm transition," says John Baker, administrator of the Beginning Farmer Center at Iowa State University. Baker is an attorney specializing in farm succession topics who has lots of estate planning and farm succession planning experience.

Practical Farmers of Iowa conference features farm transition topics
The third event being held this January that has to do with the farm transition topic is the 2015 Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference. It will be held January 22-24 in Ames. Much of the programming at the conference is specifically centered on farm transitioning and succession, aimed at helping the next generation of farmers get started. Here's what's happening related to this topic at the PFI conference.

• Map of My Kingdom: Who Gets the Land? This is a stage play. This play, commissioned by PFI and written by playwright Mary Swander, tackles the critical issue of farmland ownership. Fifty-six percent of Iowa farmland is owned by people over the age of 65, according to a report by retired Iowa State University economist Mike Duffy, "Farmland Ownership and Tenure Report in Iowa 2012." Thirty percent of Iowa farmland is owned by people who are more than 75 years old.


In the play, Angela Martin, a lawyer and mediator in land transition disputes, shares stories of how farmers and landowners have approached their land transitions. Some families struggled to resolve the sale or transfer of their land, dissolving relationships. Others found peacefully rational solutions that focused on keeping the land – and the family – together.

"Map of My Kingdom" will be performed by Madeleine Russell, an actress originally from Ames who has a BFA with special distinction from University of Oklahoma's School of Drama and many performance credits to her name there, in Washington D.C. and in Iowa. The play is directed by Matt Foss, professor of acting and theatre history at Iowa State University.

• Tell Your Story: The Farm Legacy Letter. You can attend this session and document what matters most about your farm. You will leave this course having written or recorded a "farm legacy letter," capturing farm memories along with your values and hopes for your farm's future. Hear two PFI members share their letters; then you can use yours to help guide your legal and financial farm transition. 

This session is limited to 20 participants. And there are several farmers who will lead it. Vic Madsen and his wife Cindy and son Eric raise field crops, beef cattle, hogs, chickens and aronia berries. They have farmed in Audubon County since 1975. Chris Henning lives in Cooper and is the farm manager of 320 acres of farmland she owns in Greene County. She has a 50-50 crop share arrangement on about 165 acres of the farmland; the rest is in timber, a pond and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

• Innovative Landowner-Farmer Partnerships. Landowners are key to success for many beginning farmers who cannot or should not purchase expensive farmland when starting out. Learn about two landowner-farmer partnerships – their goals, why they are working together, specifics about their arrangements and advice for others considering similar partnerships. Kate Edwards farms near Solon, on land owned by Dick Schwab. Grant Schultz farms near West Branch, on land owned by Suzan Erem and her husband Paul Durrenberger.


• "Map of My Kingdom"— Follow-Up Discussion. Many farm people "don't talk much about money or say much about anything else regarding financial matters that have to do with farm succession. And land transition takes talk – a lot of talk," according to playwright Mary Swander. Join Mary and Fred Kirschenmann, who has been through his own land transition, in a follow-up discussion of the Friday evening performance of "Map of My Kingdom." Fred Kirschenmann is a Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU in Ames, and he's a North Dakota farmland owner. Mary Swander is a co-founder of the national group AgArts and is the author of 13 books and plays.

• Farm Transfer with Farming and Non-Farming Heirs. Which farm transition issues should you consider when you have three sons and only one farm? Cindy Madsen will describe her farm, family and goals for the farm's continuation. Attorney Kate Kohorst will then provide an analysis of some of the issues the Madsens should consider as they plan for the farm's future. Cindy Madsen farms with her husband, Vic, and son Eric in Audubon County. Lawyer Kate Kohorst specializes in wills, trusts, estate planning, probate law, real estate and tax at Kohorst Law Firm in Harlan.

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