Farm Transfer Events

(see related story in News at IU, Nov. 6, 2017)

This November, a series of events around Indiana for farm owners and the professionals who advise them will explore transitions of land and farm operations to the next generation. The events will take place in Greenfield, downtown Bloomington, the south side of Indianapolis, and on Purdue campus. They will include:

(1) Performances in all four cities of a play about farm transfer written by the Poet Laureate of Iowa, followed immediately by a “talk-back” led by the playwright;

(2) Workshops in which farm owners will explore the histories of their farm and what they imagine for the future of their farm, beginning to write a Legacy Letter for their farm;

(3) A November 15 meeting in Greenfield of farmers and professionals to explore farm transitions specifically to non-family successors, and how Indiana can learn from efforts underway in other states to provide special support to this type of farm transfer.

Numerous Indiana organizations are sponsors. These include the Purdue Initiative for Family Firms, Monroe County Farm Bureau, University of Indianapolis Master of Arts in Social Practice Art, and several areas of Indiana University. These include the IU Ostrom Workshop, School of Public Health, Integrated Program on the Environment, Office of Sustainability, IU Campus Farm, IU Food Project, Department of American Studies, and Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

(1) Map of My Kingdom — a play about farm transition from one generation to the next.

Performances in Bloomington, Indianapolis, Greenfield, and
West Lafayette, Indiana.

  • Bloomington: Sunday, NOVEMBER 12 — 2:00–4:00 p.m.
    Downtown at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Rose Firebay.
    Corner of 4th and Walnut Streets, entrance on 4th Street.
    Free admission, general seating. First come, first served.
    Doors will open at 1:30 p.m. Capacity = 90
  • Indianapolis: Monday, NOVEMBER 13 — 7:00–9:00 p.m.
    At Tube Factory artspace, next to Garfield Park on the south side of
    Indianapolis, 1125 Cruft Street.
  • Greenfield: Wednesday, NOVEMBER 15 — 6:30–8:00 p.m.
    Hancock County Public Library community room. 900 West McKenzie Road.
    Free admission, general seating. First come, first served. Doors will open
    between 6:00 and 6:15 p.m. Capacity = 200
  • West Lafayette: Thursday, NOVEMBER 16 — 7:00–9:00 p.m.
    Krannert Auditorium on Purdue campus. 403 West State Street.
    *Tickets sold in advance by the Purdue Initiative for Family Firms.

Description of Map of My Kingdom, a play by Mary Swander:

Who’s going to get the farm? And what are they going to do with it? Will your future plans for your land create harmony or strife for your family? Or have you even started to think that far ahead? Map of My Kingdom tackles the critical issue of land transition. In the drama, Angela Martin, a lawyer and mediator in land transition disputes, shares stories of how farmers and landowners she has worked with over the years approached their land successions. “Some people literally killed each other over this issue,” Martin says. Others almost came to blows, struggling to resolve the sale or transfer of their land, dissolving relationships. Others found peacefully rational solutions that focused not only on the viability of the family, but also of the land.

Land is the thread that binds all of the stories together. “For most farmers I know, owning land means everything,” Angela Martin says. Map of My Kingdom will resonate with those who have been through or are working through challenging land transfer issues that include division of the land among siblings, to selling out to a neighbor, to attempts to preserve the land’s integrity against urban sprawl. The drama will inspire the hesitant and the fearful to start the conversation that cannot wait.

Today, a vast amount of land in the United States is owned by those over 65 years old. Some have made their wishes clear for the future of their property. Others are courting family upheaval by not planning in concrete ways. An age old problem, evident in literature from the Bible to King Lear to Willa Cather, land transition asks hard questions: Who really owns the land? And what is the role of the steward of a property? Can “fair” become “unfair” to one’s children?

(2) Legacy Letter workshops for farm owners.

Please register in advance online by clicking on the links provided below. Cap is 30 participants per workshop. Workshops will take place in Bloomington, Greenfield, and West Lafayette, Indiana.

  • Purdue campus: Thursday, NOVEMBER 16 — 4:00–6:00 p.m. Krannert Auditorium on Purdue campus. 403 West State Street. *Tickets sold in advance by the Purdue Initiative for Family Firms.

Description of Legacy Letter workshop for farm owners:

Farmland owners are often anxious about how make sure their stewardship values are honored by the next generation farming their land. These can be hard conversations to start with family members and tenants, especially in rural America where we are often raised to avoid talking about death and money—two topics it’s hard to avoid when you discuss passing on the farm.

In this workshop, participants will share strategies and stories with one another about talking to their heirs and tenants. Then we’ll write a Farm Legacy Letter, providing a template with a series of prompts to help you write down the history of your farm and your goals for its future. The finished document can serve as a point of departure for a conversation with your heirs and tenant/s about your farmland values.

Some of the prompts ask you to write down your strongest memories of the farm: its sights, sounds, tastes and smells, special events, your goals for managing it in the future and why they are important to you, and what you hope people will remember about your farm in 10 years.

(3) Meeting of Indiana’s stakeholders in non-family farm transfers.

IU, Purdue, and the Kansas Rural Center have been working together to learn from programs around the United States that aim to assist farm owners who lack a family successor with transferring a farm business, land, or other assets to a non-family successor. Indiana and Kansas are two of very few states with no such program as yet. Other states have started them to help aspiring farmers gain access to a farming opportunity, and to keep farmland in farming. One objective of our study is to learn from other states’ experiences in order to explore potential program models tailored to farm owners in Indiana and the people who advise them—such as you.

Tentative Schedule: