Writing a Farm Legacy Letter Can Help You Start an Important Conversation

Carroll transition meeting 2-shot 6-11When we meet with women farmland owners, one of the topics that causes them the most anxiety is how to 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! Our Women Caring for the Land participants often share strategies and stories with one another about talking to their heirs and tenants. In this post, we offer you one more tool for your resource kit.

The non-profit organization Practical Farmers of Iowa holds periodic workshops to help landowners write a Farm Legacy Letter. They provide 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.

You can find dates for upcoming meetings (or arrange to have one in your area) by visiting the PFI website. On the site, you can also find samples of letters written by Iowa landowners, and the template to write your own letter. View or download it at this link.

AngelaOne great sample letter comes from Angela Tedesco (at right), whose 20 acres near Granger, IA, supported up to 180 CSA members since its inception as Turtle Farm in 1998. She retired from farming in 2012, and rents her land to her former farm manager. Her Legacy Letter concludes: “With this farm, I was able to figure out ‘what I wanted to do when I grew up,’ even if it was in my forties, and to go on and be able to accomplish it with some success. The farm was and still is a good educational tool. In its now urban environment, it stands as a beacon for preserving land for farming over development.”