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Tools for women farm owners

By Staff | Mar 28, 2013

CHRIS HENNING, who owns farmland in Greene County, and her tenants Tom and Troy Thorpe, discussing tenant-landlord issues with those attending March 1’s WFAN Conference in Clear Lake.



CLEAR LAKE – Conducting business with tenants, legal issues, rights under wind development and farm transition issues were topics women farm land owners reviewed on March 1 at the Women, Food and Agricultural Network conference in Clear Lake.

Chris Henning, of Cooper, in Greene County, discussed the importance of having agreementys uin writing between landlords and tenants in managing land and agreeing on crops to be planted and marketed.

Henning said she grew up on her family’s farm, the oldest of six daughters, in Greene County. Graduating from high school in 1965, she left the farm with no intention of returning.

She moved to Des Moines where she worked for Meredith Publishing in human relations for 25 years.

“I didn’t realize farming was in my blood,” said Henning.

She sold her house in Des Moines and bought 145 acres, one-half mile from where she grew up.

Henning said she went full circle from leaving and never going back to coming home and never leaving.

In 2001 she wanted to try growing something other than corn and soybeans.

Henning and her tenants, Tom and Troy Thorpe, opted on growing edible soybeans. It had the advantage of using existing equipment with marketing agreements through West Central Cooperative.

The edible beans were loaded into containers on the farm and exported directly to Japan where there was a ready market for them.

At first, Henning said she rented her land for three years and was dissatisfied with the arrangement because “I couldn’t walk in my own fields.”

In 2001, she entered crop-share agreement with the Thorpes.

Henning and the Thorpes said most of their plans were made in the combine as they “talked about everything,” said Henning.

Henning wants to stay with non-GMO crops on her farm.

The presentation went into a discussion on having a written agreement versus a vocal agreement done on a handshake.

When asked by a show of hands, about half of the women present said they use written agreements. Henning and Thopes use verbal agreements.

Troy Thorpe, when asked what he had learned as a renter of farmland, said, “Make the landlord happy is the first thing that comes to mind.”

Other subjects covered that day included:

1. Boundary law, by Ed Cox of the Drake Agricultural Law Center.

2. Soil, water conservation by Kathy Koskovich, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, and Connie Roys, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

3. Landowner right and wind development, by attorney Scott Buchanan, of Algona. Buchanan said it was important to read the agreement thoroughly before signing and spend the $700 to have an attorney review it as some agreements are written to last 50 or 99 years and will be reassigned to someone else.

4. Farm transition options, by John Baker, an attorney with the Iowa State University Beginning Farmer Center.

Attendees came from Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois.

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