Pleasant Dale farmland owner featured in new book on farmland legacies

For Release: September 19, 2016

PLEASANT DALE, Nebraska — Pleasant Dale farmland owner Del Ficke is among the more than 25 farmland owners featured in a new book, “The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers’ Legacy Letters Project.”

The book 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.

The Ficke family’s Nebraska story started in 1888, when Johann Ficke “found a beautiful spot a mile west of Pleasant Dale, Nebraska, to homestead and begin the labors that have become our family’s legacy.” In his Farm Legacy Letter, Del tells the story that led him to the grass-based grazing operation he runs today, including when his father surprised him by announcing that Del would take over the farming operation when he was 20 years old.

Del writes that “My grandpa Adolph’s and my father’s voices are my constant companions . . . . Like the generations before me, the family is the most important part of the farm. It is their talents and gifts that are the most precious resources. The land must be worked for and is not guaranteed, but the creativity of the next generation can keep the farm and Ficke Cattle Company going with new ideas and dreams.”

Del writes in the book, “My goal is to restore and improve the soils back to the way God intended. Improving the environment on this farm is a top goal.”

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 Del 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 |