“Changing Lands, Changing Hands” Explores Land Ownership

News Release Date: 
July 1, 2013

For Immediate Release

NET’s “Changing Lands, Changing Hands” Explores Trends in Land Ownership

LINCOLN, Neb. (June 27, 2013) – As older farmers retire, their land will change hands, but who takes over and how that happens will reshape the agriculture industry. NET News and Harvest Public Media examine changing trends in land ownership and what they mean to farm families and rural communities in “Changing Lands, Changing Hands,” airing Friday, July 12, at 7 p.m. CT on NET1/HD.

In addition to the 30-minute television special, a five-part radio series will air as the daily “Signature Story” on NET Radio during the week of July 8-12. “Signature Stories” air on NET Radioat 6:30 and 8:30 a.m. CT and 4:30 p.m. CT. NET News reporters/producers Grant Gerlock, Mike Tobias and Ryan Robertson will contribute to the television special. Gerlock other Harvest Public Media reporters from across the Midwest will produce the “Signature Story” radio news segments, addressing issues such as aging farmers, transferring land, baby boomers beginning to farm, how the aging of rural America changes towns and communities and what young people think about farming.

Farmers who are more than 65 years old make up the fastest growing group of agricultural producers in the U.S. and their impending retirement will change the face of Nebraska’s largest industry, as well as those in neighboring agricultural states. By some estimates, more than half of the farmland in the U.S. could change hands during the next generation and thousands of farm families will be forced to decide whether to buy, hold or sell their land. The fact that land prices have been rising at astonishing rates complicates the decision.

In “Changing Lands, Changing Hands,” NET News visits a land auction in Minden, Neb., where Sam Foglesong, a non-farmer operator (someone who owns the land but does not actually farm it), is selling his fourth generation farm to pay his own medical bills and fund his children’s college education.

In another segment of the program, Iowa farmer Bob Hawthorn explains that although he’s 84 years old, he does not plan to retire from his 2,000 acre Loess Hills farm any time soon. His neighbors are curious what he will do with his land because he has no children and never married. “They can’t wait until I retire,” Hawthorn explained.

“Changing Lands, Changing Hands” also takes viewers to Bladen, Neb., where Riley and Kelly Skrdlant grow corn, soybeans and wheat, and run about 150 head of cattle on their 1,800 acre family farm. Riley Skrdlant is part of a younger generation of farmers that is choosing to stay on the farm full-time. It’s a trend that experts such as Dave Goeller, assistant director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s North Central Risk Management Education Center, believe will become more common, although for those without family ties, land and upstart costs are huge obstacles to getting started in the industry.

The program also looks at smaller, alternative farmers who plant their business on just a few acres. Dan and Laura Pugh, who farm just outside of Columbia, Mo., grow arugula, spinach, kale and other greens on some of the 50 acres that make up Honey Creek Farms. USDA research shows that even though small farmers aren’t making large profits, the greatest increase in farm numbers is for small farms with annual sales less than $10,000 year.

In “Changing Lands, Changing Hands,” NET News also visits with agricultural economists, psychologists and attorneys who advise farmers of all ages about farming, owning land and passing it along to the next generation of farmers.

Funding for Harvest Public Media comes from a three-year grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The initiative is intended to combine resources and strengthen collaboration among several Midwest public broadcasting stations. As part of the grant, NET participates in a Midwest Local Journalism Center (LJC) with partners KCUR-FM in Kansas City, Mo.; Iowa Public Radio; KBIA-FM in Columbia, Mo.; KUNC in Greeley, Colo. and WUIS in Springfield, Ill.

NET1/HD is part of NET Television. NET Television and NET Radio are services of NET. For more information about NET programming, go to netNebraska.org and click on television or radio.


NET News contact: Grant Gerlock, 402-472-9333, ext. 346, or e-mail at ggerlock@netNebraska.org

Release written by: Kim Rogers, 402-472-9333, ext. 512, or e-mail krogers@netNebraska.org


NET Television:

NET1is Nebraska's first public television broadcast service and includes PBS and award-winning, locally produced public television programming. NET2 World offers live coverage of the Nebraska Unicameral, and other news and public affairs programming; NET3 Create is a 24-hour channel featuring the most popular how-to, travel and lifestyle series; and NET-HD presents high-definition digital broadcast programming displayed in a wide-screen format.


NET Radio:

Broadcasts on the following frequencies: Alliance/91.1 FM; Bassett/90.3 FM; Chadron/91.9 FM; Columbus/90.3 FM; Culbertson/92.7 FM; Falls City/88.9 FM; Harrison/89.5 FM; Hastings/Grand Island/89.1 FM; Lexington/88.7 FM; Lincoln/91.1 FM; Max/93.3 FM; Merriman/91.5 FM; Norfolk/89.3 FM; and North Platte/91.7 FM.