If there is one thing that repeatedly upsets me, it’s seeing a ‘For Sale’ sign in the middle of a corn field.

‘For Sale’ due to foreclosure. ‘For Sale’ because of a job transfer. ‘For Sale’ because of a death in the family. ‘For Sale’ because the kids have all moved away and there is no one left to run the farm. ‘For Sale’ because I’m just plain tired of working all the time.

There are a million and one reasons to sell the farm. And I, someday, may claim one of them as reason to sell my share of this farm, God forbid.

I think, though, that the most common reason to sell the farm is this: Mom and Dad are retiring, and it’s time for us kids to cash in on the American Dream.

Is there anything wrong with that? Honestly, it’s everyone’s right to claim their inheritance and to transform that land into whatever currency most fits their lifestyle. And a lot of times, selling the farm is the most practical, obvious solution to the ‘problem’ of inheriting a farm.

So why does it bother me so much?

On an intellectual level, if I could be so bold to claim that I even have an intellectual level, it makes sense. I get it. But on an emotional level (which I definitely have), it kills me.

Especially because reality dictates that whoever purchases the farm will likely be a developer waiting to turn that farm into houses. Or they will be an absent landowner, renting your land out to the lowest bidder who doesn’t much care if they degrade the soil. Or, if your farm is most unfortunate, it may go to a businessman who also has a dream, a dream that looks a lot like an industrial ‘park’ or ethanol plant or landfill.

From my point of view, land is constant. It is sustenance. It connects us to our past. It shapes us into who we are.

The land educates and humbles. It defines and enables. It inspires.

Our farmland provides for us. It is space to move about, to use or preserve. It permits us to be. It is our culture, our heritage, our rural treasure.

Farmland to a Midwesterner is home.

So you see, when that ‘For Sale’ sign goes up, we trade in our past, our culture and our heritage for a swollen bank account. And while land’s value lies in its preservation, money’s value lies in it’s use. Land is worth something only when it is cared for and loved. Money is only useful when it is spent. And while the land will always be there, the money doesn’t offer any guarantees.

Land is the loving spouse. Money is the love affair.

So, children of farmers, I want to remind you that the American Dream wasn’t always a large bank account*. It used to be a parcel of land to call our own. A place to be and become.

The American Dream was a farm. May it be that way once more.

*If farm ownership isn’t practical for you, or if you really do need the money, please look into a Farmland Conservation Easement. What usually happens with an easement is that you sell or donate the development rights of your farm to an easement holding company. While lowering the cash value of your property, you do receive tax incentives and your land can only be sold as farmland for perpetuity. Please check out your options at American Farmland Trust. Locally, the Natural Land Institute can help you discover your options.
*A second local option would be to contact The Land Connection. They work with would-be-farmers to help them find and purchase available farmland.