Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sharing Memories Sunday - Farm Land to Rent or Buy/Sell

Sharing Memories Sunday
Farm Land to Rent or Buy/Sell

I tend to very few vivid memories from my youth, but, from time to time, I do have 'recollections' of conversations I overheard, stimulated by my current reading and writing. This is one of those.

This past week on Monday I posted a map of the farm lands where my Dad's family, and he, started in Iowa. On Wednesday I posted a photo of Mom and I on the farm where we lived when I was born. On Thursday, I posted a photo of Mom and Dad on their rented farm. Cousin GeneJ sent a comment about the land and this family history we share that prompted the following 'recollections.'

Iowa farmer, 1939, with load of hay
(likely my Dad or his brother - cannot tell, with certainty)

As March 1 approached each year in our community, in the 1940s and 1950s for sure, other years I'm sure were the same, the conversation among the men-folks always included who would get their rental agreements renewed on their farm lands and who was buying and selling farmland nearby. March 1 was the change-over date. If land was to 'change-hands,' either by sale or for the farmer renting the land, it was always done on March 1 - the start of the new year. If plowing had been done in the fall in anticipation of spring planting, an allowance was always made in the sale/rental agreement for that work that had already been performed. There were often discussion like: I sure wish he had not plowed that 20 acres last fall… I'd like to have done something different with that land, this year, now that I will be in charge. Talk like that was common.

For young farmers, who did not yet own their own land, or who wanted to expand their acreage, the ability to acquire a (or another) farm to rent was crucial. There were not a lot of opportunities because most farmers farmed the land they owned. Most of the land rented out, was already committed to the current renter, and he was depending on it for his family. So, the person just starting out had to really 'scramble' to get their chance - and 'scrambling' was not seen by some as a 'seemly' thing to do… you had to be subtle, you had to boast of your abilities 'without boasting.'

Sometimes a farmer who was renting, if for whatever reason lost his rental for the next year, he might have to go several miles away, or farther, perhaps into another county, in order to obtain a farm to rent, to keep himself and/or is family going, for the coming year. The alternative would be to 'hire yourself out' to a larger farmer for that year - and that was a step back, not forward, for the independent small Iowa farmer.

I can clearly recall the anxiety of some of Dad's close friends who 'lost their lease' and had to make that transition to a new place, if they even could, on March 1. My Dad, Pete, worked very, very hard to make sure that never happened to him, and it didn't. He only moved twice: first, from a family land rental to one on his own; then to land he was able to buy - where he spent the rest of his life as a farmer. Ah, the memories. And there will be more. Stay tuned.

Families are Forever!  ;-)


  1. What an awesome post! I can also remember the tensions related to farm lands changing hands when I was a child. You did a wonderful job of describing how farm families felt. Land was always scarce and it was a vital input.

  2. Thank you, Sheryl. I was surprised how well I remembered, once I got started. Really felt compelled to write it down and share it! I really appreciate your comment! ;-)

  3. Great post dad!! Too bad the picture isn't bigger!! :-)