Nothing is Certain but Death and Taxes – Land Link Issue #2
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes” and yet while we all know they are inevitable facts of life and the price we pay to live, nobody wants to deal with either one.
This is a difficult blog for me to write—who wants to talk about death or taxes or to open old wounds. I had the amazing good fortune to come from multiple generations of family farmers and landowners. My great grandmother and her brother immigrated here from Ireland as orphans. They realized their American dream when they purchased their own pieces of land in northeastern Missouri, farmed that land and raised their children on that land. My mom, who grew up in Kirksville, and my dad nurtured and carried on that tradition adding more farmland and a passion for farming and love of the land that has flowed through the generations.
I spent a great portion of my adult life and some of the best parts of my youth on those farms. I lived on that land, farmed that land, lived off that land and my wife and I raised four amazing children on that land. I have managed to hold onto that land against what sometimes seems insurmountable odds as crop prices increased and deflated, as crops failed with drought and as the market for farms has ebbed and flowed with the economy, and of course, as family often does, became an issue.
This is a difficult thing for me to write and I am sure if hands were raised, there would be many who understand and share similar experiences. When I first started farming in the late 1970s, all of the magazine articles were about how to farm and market your production. The articles then become all about hunting and how to make extra money using your land as a hunting resource. The articles I see now often focus on your land and how to keep it in the family and pass it down through the generations especially when it’s worth has greatly increased.
There is rarely an easy solution—often there is a faction that wants to keep the farm and another faction who sees the worth of those acres and wants to sell that farm and move in.
At one time, when the crop prices were buggy it may have been easy for those who wanted to keep the land to buy out those who wanted to sell. Unfortunately, now those family farms, the backbone of America are at risk as low crop prices and an increasingly high cost per acre is making it more and more difficult to keep farms in the family. It’s becoming that much more difficult for the child who wants to keep the farm to buy out the siblings or the former spouse.
Now, having weathered so many storms and as I get older and my kids have kids, I have to come to terms with my own mortality and make difficult decisions and have some uncomfortable conversations lest history repeat itself or lest that land be lost to my future generations. I know not all of my children want to farm and that’s fine.
No matter how well intentioned everyone is there will likely be hurt feelings and perhaps family members that are forever shunned and generations of ongoing mistrust and ill thoughts.
There is no easy answer. This is not an easy conversation. However, for the sake of your family, for your future generations it needs to be had. See an attorney, make sure that everything is written out, make a will. Have these difficult conversations. Be uncomfortable. You owe it to the future.
Best wishes. Good luck.