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Historic Transition of IA Farmland: The Challenges of Change

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Friday, July 11, 2014   

DES MOINES, Iowa - The historic transition of Iowa farmland to a new generation is one of the greatest challenges facing the state, and a theater production that premieres this weekend aims to spark discussion about it.

The play, called "Map of My Kingdom," shares stories of how farmers and landowners have approached the transitions and the obstacles they faced, said beginning farmer Angela Winburn of Malcom.

"The goal of the play is to get people thinking and talking, and to publicize this notable event - that ownership of a large percentage of Iowa farmland will change hands in the near future," she said. "If care and action are not taken now, we will continue to have fewer and fewer farmers in Iowa."

The latest figures show more than half of Iowa farmland is owned by people age 65 and older, and nearly one-third is owned by people age 75 and older. That includes Winburn's parents, who she said are now in their 80s and nearing retirement.

"If you have hopes and dreams for the future of your farm, then you should make them known," she said. "Ask yourself if you want the farm parceled out, or sold piece by piece, or do you want it kept together? Do you have a child that you wish to see continue the farm operation? Take steps to make that possible. So much is at stake when farmland transfers from one generation to the next."

Bequeathing land to family members still is the most common method of transferring it, although owner-operated farmland in Iowa has been declining for decades and now makes up only 40 percent of the total amount of farm acreage.

"Map of My Kingdom" was written by Iowa's Poet Laureate Mary Swander, and was commissioned by the group Practical Farmers of Iowa. It premieres tomorrow at Scattergood Friends School near West Branch, with more performances to be held across the state in the coming months.

More information about "Map of My Kingdom" is online at practicalfarmers.org. Details on Iowa farmland are at blogs.extension.iastate.edu.


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