By Ryan Batalden
We often think of our legacy as related to our farm's financial success. Our legacy will show how we were able to weather hard times - floods, droughts, hot weather, cool weather, low prices, pests, weeds, the farming crisis of the '80's, changes in production methods, and other enormous challenges. Our legacy will show that not only did our farm survive, it prospered. Maybe it even grew in numbers of acres or livestock.
These are all important parts of our legacies.
But, what is our legacy in relation to our community? What is our legacy in relation to all of those pieces of our community that make it the place we love, and make it what it is? What is the legacy we leave for those who wish to move to or live in our area? What is the legacy we want to leave for the next generation of farmers?
We all want the next generation of farmers to succeed, just as the generations previous to us wanted us to succeed. Are we leaving them with the opportunity to do so? Can anyone who wants to farm have that opportunity? Shouldn't someone who wants to farm have that opportunity? I was able to farm for two simple reasons. Reason No. 1 - my family supported me. However, my parents did not farm enough land to support two families. The other reason I was able to farm was because of two landowners. Both valued helping a young farmer as much as they valued "top dollar." In return, I have treated their land with the care and respect I would as if I owned it. Because of this, and because I raise crops for specialty markets, they have both been rewarded financially as well.
As land ownership changes hands, are our values being accurately and honestly reflected? When you see land changing hands, does it show to others what we truly value? Without creative transition solutions, where will the next generation of farmers worship, shop, and send their kids to school? Will they be able to farm at all?
What are some ways we can show our values and ensure our legacy - not just financially, but also in other ways - when we transition our farm to the next generation?
This question can be quite hard to answer.
However, there is a large and continually growing number of examples of creative ways that retiring farmers have found to transition their land to new farmers. There are all sorts of different examples that have allowed retiring farmers to ensure that their farm's financial, family and community legacy is preserved for the next generation.
I know, without a doubt, that if we look hard enough, we can all find ways to ensure our legacies in a way that truly reflects our values.
Ryan Batalden, along with his wife, Tiffany, and their two children, live and farm near Lamberton. They raise numerous grain crops and livestock on their 350-acre farm.