Charles City farmland owners featured in new book

For Release: September 8, 2016

CHARLES CITY, Iowa — Charles City-area farmland owners Leon and Marilyn Isakson are featured in a new book just published by University of Iowa Press. The book, “The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers’ Legacy Letters Project,” gathers the letters and stories of families about the land they cherish – how they acquired it, what they treasure most about it and their hopes for its future.

Some of the writers descend from families who have owned a particular patch of earth since the 1800s, while others became farmland owners more recently. Some are no longer farmland owners at all, because after careful thought about what matters most to them, they sold their land to the next generation of farmers.

Leon and Marilyn Isakson purchased their home farm in 1967. They raise Black Angus cows, corn, soybeans and hay on the land, and raised veal calves and sheep in the 1970s and ‘80s. Their farm legacy letter, included in “The Future of Family Farms,” includes favorite memories, like building a pond on the land in 1979 and planting a forest preserve of hickory and oaks that are now mature trees. Their letter also includes their ideas on the legacy they want to leave behind with their land.

“Thirty years from now, we want people to remember the tidiness of our farm, that it’s been in our family for a lot of years, and all the fun we’ve had working and playing on it,” Marilyn says. “Summers were filled with happy grandchildren learning about the garden and having fun in the wide-open spaces.”

Marilyn states in the book that her farm goal “is to provide land for our farming heirs while providing compensation to the ones who do not choose to farm. We want our family to continue to enjoy times together.”

Teresa Opheim, Farm Transfer Program director with Practical Farmers of Iowa, compiled the volume and says: “We are so pleased that so many farmland owners like Leon and Marilyn are willing to share their stories for this book. They are leaders in tackling farmland succession issues, which are affecting so many people. Forty percent of America’s farmland is owned by those ages 65 and older, so now more than ever, it is time for farmland owners to think through the legacy they want to leave behind.”

The book is receiving national attention. “The Future of Family Farms is a timely and important new book,” says Julia Freedgood of the American Farmland Trust. “The Practical Farmers’ stories are both moving and relevant, reinforcing the need for families not only to have shared commitment but also a vision and plan for the future – whether they’ve been farming for more than a hundred years or are beginning farmers.”

According to Jim Habana Hafner of Land for Good, based in New Hampshire, “PFI and its members are an inspiration! They remind us all that family, community and stewardship are at the heart of farming. Their stories are a call to action to everyone who ‘belongs to the land’: Start the conversation today about your farm’s legacy.”

To order the book, visit Help for writing your own farm legacy letter is available at www.practicalfarmers/org/farmtransfer.


Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit


Teresa Opheim | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |