Family farm could be a lasting legacy

If you grew up on a farm, nobody has to tell you a farm is a good thing. Chances are, memories of life on the farm are some of your most cherished, and you will never, never cease to feel its pull.

But will you ever go back? What will become of that farmland you either now own, or will someday own with siblings? If you do intend to stay on or go back to the family farm, who will be the actual owner or owners of the property, and who will have control over how the property is used?

As our population grows and city limits continue to extend further and further into the countryside, family farms are facing new challenges. The upcoming “Tennessee Farmland Legacy Conference” could provide some answers — or at least get an open and healthy conversation started among family members — about a number of options to help ensure that your family farm can remain in the family, and become a lasting legacy for its surrounding community.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is a host of the conference which will be held Oct. 9-10 at Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns, Tenn. The event will address a number of opportunities available to families who are facing or will someday face the questions that come with inheriting property.

Community leaders from across the state will also attend to explore options for development that will protect farmland but still allow for economic growth.

“Participants will find that our speakers and panel members understand the legal, financial and emotional issues that come up when it’s time to decide what to do with the farm,” says Jane Howell, with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. “When you see session titles like, ‘You Can Buy the Family Farm but Just Remember That I Still Own It!,’ you know that these experts will not be surprised by your particular family dynamics or dilemmas. This popular session will be led by Ron Hanson from the University of Nebraska, who will focus directly on the ‘family issues’ of farm or family business ownership succession, when one generation attempts to pass on the ownership or control of their family operation to the next generation.”

Other topics on the agenda include property taxes, estate planning, conservation easements and other agriculture and community issues affecting farms. In addition to farm estate planning, the conference will also provide information on current opportunities farmers can use to improve the farm’s profitability and viability, such as cost share assistance through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program.

Some of the speakers scheduled to attend are Gerry Cohn with the American Farmland Trust and Rhedona Rose with the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.

“With good planning, using the tools being presented at this conference,” says Howell, “you can ensure that your family farm won’t become just a memory, but a continuing, productive and beautiful legacy,” says Howell.

Other conference hosts include the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, Tennessee Department of Tourism, Lyndhurst Foundation, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Land Trust for Tennessee, USDA Rural Development, Center for Profitable Agriculture, MTSU Center for Historic Preservation and Cumberland Region Tomorrow.

Farmers, farm family members and community planners can register for the conference online at or by calling (865) 974-0280.

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