The average age of the American farmer is 57, while the average farmland owner is over 70. Due to our aging population of food producers, an estimated 70 percent of farmland will change ownership in the next 20 years. Because most families have no -- or inadequate -- estate or transition plans, farm families run the risk of losing much of their land and wealth.

With a growing number of young people interested in farming, careful farm transition planning will benefit incoming and outgoing farmers, as well as their legacy of care for the land and our food supply.

Renwing the Countryside, in partnership with the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota, have developed a weath of tools for the complex work of farm transitions.


-a bimonthly newsletter
-a monthly radio program
-an online clearinghouse of information and resources
-transition assessment and coaching (free through fall 2013) - 612.910.7601 or info[at]rtcinfo[dot]org

We have already held workshops in Clearwater, Browerville, Northfield, Fergus Falls, Madison and Victoria in 2012; future workshops will be posted here and in the SFA Connect e-newsletter. If you attended a Farm Transitions workshop, look for correspondence by mail, and don’t hesitate to contact us for any reason.

Contact Information

Phone: 612.910.7601
Email: info[at]rtcinfo[dot]org


Understand your succession options, and how to find and prepare for working with legal and financial professionals

A day will come when you will no longer be able to farm full-time. Or, perhaps, you’re one of those rare farmers who will want to retire! How will that impact your farm business? How will that impact your farm legacy?

Too often, these questions are avoided or put on hold because they don’t seem urgent, and frankly, they are a bit uncomfortable. But planning now is vitally important. Whether you’re 45 or 75, it is in your best interest (and that of your loved ones) to understand the ins and outs of legal, tax, and family implications of farm business transfers.

Renewing the Countryside and the Sustainable Farming Association have organized a series of workshops to help farmers and farm-land owners in creating a transition plan for their business and assets. The workshop will discuss wills and trusts, life insurance, power of attorney, long-term health care, and more – all issues that are included in a farm succession plan.

At each workshop, a panel of farm succession professionals will discuss how to find and prepare for working with a legal and financial team of support specialists. We will facilitate a question-and-answer session to ensure that topics specific to your situation will be discussed. A resource packet will provide information on various transfer strategies, tax issues related to the transfer process, how to discuss methods for treatment of heirs, and how to develop a written transfer plan. General assistance will also be available following the workshop for those that are interested.

Upcoming Farm Transitions Events

Spring meetings have been a great success. Check back here soon for forthcoming events.

Farm Transitions Newsletter

Vol. I, Issue 1 – Jan. 2013


Jan Joannides is most at home in the countryside, and after many years of city life is happy to now call southeastern Minnesota home. She has spent the last couple of years learning about the complexities and challenges that farmers face as they consider their later years. Jan has a master’s degree in natural resources from the University of Minnesota. She helped co-found the Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management, directed the Community Assistantship Program in its early years, and served as an administrator at the University of Minnesota’s Children, Youth and Family Consortium. Jan has been the managing editor of eight books focusing on sustainable rural development, helped launch Green Routes, a sustainable travel initiative, and works to find innovative ways to build vibrant rural communities.


Brett Olson grew up in small rural communities throughout the Midwest. Summers were often spent at the wheel of a windrower on neighbors’ farms. Brett works for Renewing the Countryside who’s mission is to find active strategies for building sustainable rural economies and enhancing the quality of place for the people who live in them. Brett has presented on sustainable tourism, family farms and local food both locally and nationally. He has worked directly with farmers in designing business strategies and discovering direct markets for their products. As one of the founders of Renewing the Countryside, Brett has been involved in much of the development, planning and organizing since it’s inception. Brett and his family recently moved on to a former dairy farm in Zumbro Falls, Minnesota.


John Mesko is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Farming Association, a Farmer-to-Farmer Network designed to enhance and promote sustainable agriculture. In this role, John develops local food networks, helps beginning farmers succeed, and expands the capacity of farmer networks. He and his family also own and operate Lighthouse Farm, producing grass-fed beef and pastured pork.




Kent Solberg and his wife, Linda, have a diversified pasture-based livestock farm near Verndale, MN.  They raise dairy, pork, eggs and beef.  Kent serves as Livestock and Grazing Specialist, and Dairy Initiatives Coordinator through the Sustainable Farming Association. He is also adjunct faculty at the community college in Fergus Falls as a livestock, forage and farm skills instructor.




Robyn Ingber joined Renewing the Countryside as its Staff Attorney in July 2012. She grew up on the plains of Oklahoma, then later attended the University of Kansas, where she received a B.A. in Political Science. Robyn comes from a long line of Southern farmers, so she is thrilled to combine her passion for law and family tradition in the work she is doing with the Farm Transitions program. Robyn is a Certified Farm Succession Coordinator, which means she is trained in the particular issues that farm families face when doing estate planning and farm succession planning. Robyn graduated from William Mitchell College of Law in 2008 and spent the past three years practicing in an estate-planning firm in Minnetonka. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Marc; 19 mo. old daughter, Ella; and 75-pound lapdog, Otis. She is known among her colleagues and friends for making delectable pecan pies.


Jason Walker is Communications Coordinator for the Sustainable Farming Association. After a decade in the newspaper business, Jason joined SFA in summer 2011 and handles social media, newsletters, website and member management for the organization. He works with the Farm Transitions project in several aspects of communications and outreach. Jason is also a staff writer for the Heavy Table and contributes to Growler magazine. He lives with his family in Minneapolis where he likes to can, build things in his shop and attempt to play and sing classic country songs.



Farm Transitions is made possible through a grant from the USDA Risk Management Agency.