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Serving: IN

Who Do You Trust With Your Farm?

Leaving farming? Will you sell or rent to anyone?

Suppose you've decided to retire form farming, maybe for health reasons. Also suppose you feel like you've done a good job through the years building up soil fertility, installing soil conservation practices that eliminated what were once problems with gullies and other forms of soil erosion, and of improving the soil by practicing conservation tillage, maybe even no-till. Whether you're going to rent or sell the property, how do you make sure that the next owner and/or operator will treat the farm with the same loving care as you always have?

One way to do it is by handpicking whom you rent to or sell to very carefully, a retired farmer advises. When he stepped aside a few years ago, he already had in mind who he wanted to farm his land. He'd been watching this person and noticing how he took care of his own land. While the about-to-retire farmer made his final decision to hang it up, he was making his decision about who he wanted to farm his land at the same time.

He also wanted someone who could get work done in a timely fashion, who was making his living from farming, and who looked to be invested in the future of farming. In his case, fortunately he was able to find a father-and-son team not far away who met his list of qualifications.

Another method one central Indiana farmer retiring for health reasons this year hopes to employ is specifying certain stipulations in the land sales contract. One of those stipulations will be to continue to leave land on highly erosive, thin soils in the Conservation Reserve Program offered through USDA. It doesn't hurt that he's also watched the person he intends to sell to farm his own land over time, and believes he shares many of the same beliefs about taking care of the soil. He's convinced his neighbor will continue to no-till his land, which is important to preventing both water and wind erosion in his part of the country.

Why worry about who's taking over your land if you're cashing in? That's where the conservation ethic and legacy of farming seems to be kicking in. One farmer about ready to make this switch says he spent a lifetime building up his farm from very poor shape when he bought it to almost a model showplace for conservation today. And he enjoyed doing it at the same time.

But he couldn't stand to see someone come in and undo all the work he has done over the years to improve the farm and the soil there, he says. That's why handpicking the next tenant or owner, discussing their beliefs and plans with them in advance, and perhaps even adding stipulations to the contract to make sure the good work done over time isn't destroyed are all options some people look to when it's time to move on from farming.

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