Late McGregor farmer featured in new book

For Release: September 19, 2016

McGREGOR, Iowa – The late Dan Specht, who farmed near McGregor before his death in a 2013 farm accident, is featured in a new book, “The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers’ Legacy Letters Project,” just published by University of Iowa Press.

The book includes more than 25 farmland owners writing about the past and present of their farms and their hopes for their farmland’s future. Farmersburg farmland owners Jeff Klinge and Deb Tidwell are also among those featured in the book.

“The Future of Family Farms” includes a tribute to Dan from Practical Farmers of Iowa. “Dan Specht was a beloved member of Practical Farmers of Iowa,” writes the volume’s editor Teresa Opheim, director of the Farm Transfer Program at Practical Farmers. “He left behind hundreds of friends, family and admirers. I was grateful to know Dan and also have the bittersweet gift of mourning him when he was taken from us.”

The book also features a tribute poem from Dan’s brother, Phil, a McGregor farmer, and the farm legacy letter of Mary Damm, who purchased much of Dan’s farmland to continue his focus on conservation. Mary, of Bloomington, Indiana, who visited the farm regularly during Dan’s later years, documents in the book Dan’s focus on grazing and grassland birds and tells the tale of purchasing the land at auction after Dan’s death.

“The 120 acres I purchased will be managed the way that Dan would have. He was a farmer and I am an ecologist, so we have different backgrounds, but we had a similar vision for caring for the earth . . . . When I visited the farm when Dan was alive, I would take my lawn chair out and sit and watch the birds. I still do, and sit there thinking, ‘this is my farm now, my responsibility now.’”

According to Teresa: “We are so pleased that so many farmland owners like Jeff Klinge, Deb Tidwell and Mary Damm 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 |