From the WCFCourier.com by Sarah Strandberg

When it became time to sell his family’s farm near Stanton, settled by his Swedish immigrant grandparents, Dale Nimrod and his siblings — none of whom had remained in Stanton — worked to find an appropriate owner.

“We were no different from many aging landowners facing this very common situation. We aspired to find a nice young family who would appreciate the land, the community and the church, and would invest themselves in caring for all three,” Nimrod said in a magazine article published by Practical Farmers of Iowa.

“But far too often I have seen owners who fervently hope for such an outcome put their place up for auction with little more than their fingers crossed regarding their community,” he said.

“It is a misperception, I think, that selling to the highest bidder is the only way to be fair when disposing of property,” Nimrod said. “We were determined to make the desired outcome a reality.”

The Nimrod siblings inquired with the Lutheran pastor in Stanton about anyone who might be looking to farm. That’s how they connected with Mark Peterson. He purchased the farm after working through a land price based on production value rather than market value. Peterson is now a member of the PFI board.

When Practical Farmers of Iowa was looking for an appropriate host for a play it commissioned on farmland ownership, Nimrod, a member, suggested Washington Prairie Lutheran Church.

Church history

Washington Prairie Pastor Mark Kvale and Nimrod have discussed land issues in the past, and Kvale agreed his church could host the performance of “Map of My Kingdom.”

Kvale told Nimrod land transfer issues are on the minds of many members at Washington Prairie — an issue for rural Iowans across the state.

According to a 2012 report from retired Iowa State University Extension economist Mike Duffy, 56 percent of Iowa farmland is owned by people older than 65, and 30 percent belongs to owners older than 75.

As one of the largest and oldest rural congregations in the area, Washington Prairie and its members have a history of conservation and being good stewards of the soil, Kvale said, so hosting the play makes sense.

“Dale approached me almost immediately after talking about the topic of land transfer. It’s an important issue and something our members care about: the healthy transfer of the land,” Kvale said.

Washington Prairie’s former pastor, Oscar Engebretson, who served the congregation during the 1950s, did as much as anyone in the county on conservation issues at the time, Nimrod said.

“He preached from the pulpit it would be a sin to let soil go down the river. … He worked very closely with the Soil and Water Conservation Service, now the Natural Resources Conservation Service, toward getting farmers to change to soil conservation practices. He saw it as being a moral and theological responsibility to take care of the land,” Nimrod said.

Problems

Nimrod said he believes the play will touch on topics such as unfairness during land transactions.

For example, when one child takes over operation of the family farm and other siblings aren’t involved, problems can occur when the parents die.

“When it comes to splitting it up, the others want an equal share, which could mean the one farming can’t afford to buy it and they have to sell the farm. That’s happened many times. … I think the point of the play is to bring some of those issues out,” Nimrod said.

“Land market values are out of whack with the productivity value, and that gets in the way of passing the land on in a way that’s fair and helpful to the person who spent all their life taking care of the land,” he said.

“Map of My Kingdom” premiered to a sold-out performance in West Branch in July. In addition to Washington Prairie on Sept. 7, the play is scheduled for Chariton on Sept. 25, Red Oak on Sept. 28 and Ames on Jan. 23.

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