Family Policy is just as important as agricultural policy.
I am the sixth generation that has lived on our small grain farm in Central Illinois. It all started with John R. Benjamin, a Quaker, who imagined building a community of people with similar beliefs. Six generations later that community is basically a ghost town, although you might have heard of Benjaminville, Illinois (also known as Bentown). It’s cool enough to have a Wikipedia page.
The original farmstead still stands, but a lot of the farmland and homes surrounding it have changed hands over the years. While our farmland remains Benjamin-owned, our satellite farms have been subdivided by generations of children inheriting their own part of the American dream.
After my grandmother passed away, my dad had the option of buying out my aunt’s share, but rich, fertile Central Illinois farmland costs a pretty penny. Lucky for us, my aunt wanted to be a part of the family operation, and my dad continues to farm the Benjamin land.
In an age of complicated family situations, it’s important to protect everyone’s best interests. These aren’t conversations that can wait. Even as I write this, I feel that awkward, uncomfortable feeling of discussing something that is so economically but also emotionally charged.
You see, I’m proud of being the sixth generation on our farm. The farm buildings and soil are part of my heritage. Just as my aunt wants to be a part of this heritage, so do I.
It’s heritage we both wanted to maintain, and that involved some tough conversations when it came time for her to update her own will. Because of that conversation, we know that John R. Benjamin’s legacy will stay in the hands of Benjamin descendants – at least for another generation.
Still many farm families must face the reality that the land they farm today could be auctioned off to the highest bidder tomorrow. In those cases, I believe, our farms and truth be told our hearts are a little less whole.
You might be wondering what this has to do with agricultural policy. Check out tomorrow’s blog post to find out!
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