ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — By some estimates 70% of U.S. farmland will change hands in the next 2 decades and a new generation of farmers will take over – or not. For farmers nearing retirement age or young people wanting to begin farming, transitioning is a long process with a lot of details and moving parts that have to be considered.
In 2012, Alex and Betsy Hitt, owners of Peregrine Farm located outside Chapel Hill, North Carolina, began the process of bringing one of their employees into the business as a partner, allowing them to slowly step back from daily field operations. The Hitts started their farm in 1981, fresh graduates from Utah State University with degrees in soils (Alex) and forestry (Betsy). Both have worked full time on the farm since 1990 and make their entire living off of 2.5 acres.
Peregrine Farms is a diversified operation, with about 75% vegetable production and 15% cut flowers, with the rest in small fruit. The majority of income comes from a two-day-a-week farmers’ market, with the rest in direct sales to a number of restaurants. Over the years, products have also been marketed through U-pick, roadside stand, grocery stores, florists and floral wholesalers.
Moving into their seventh decade, Alex and Betsy found the summer production season to be more difficult and wearing than it was in the past. Aches and pains were slower to fade, so they began thinking about the future. As first-generation farmers, the Hitts wanted the farm they built to continue on into the future, but they had no children to pass the farm to. Many farmers have to sell their ground to afford retirement, but they wanted to stay in their home and enjoy their property. So what to do?
According to Alex, “You don’t pass on, close or sell any business quickly, especially one where you live and have nurtured your whole life. It takes time to put all the pieces in place as there is estate planning, financial planning, tax planning and all manner of legal details to work through.”
For the last seven years, Alex and Betsy have worked the farm with their business partner Jennie, who now oversees the field crew and all aspects of production with input from Alex and Betsy. Come and learn more about how Alex and Betsy are navigating transitioning their farm to the next generation with “The Jennie Project”.
Registration & Lodging
The Great Plains Growers Conference will be held January 10-12, 2019 at the Fulkerson Conference Center on the Missouri Western State University Campus in St. Joseph, Missouri. Alex’s keynote presentation starts at 9 a.m. on Friday January 11.
Registration, which includes meals and breaks, for the Thursday workshops are $55 per person and $45 per day per person for the Friday and Saturday sessions. Student registration is $25.00/day with valid student identification with the exception of the FSMA workshop which is $55.
Conference hotels in St. Joseph include:
- Stoney Creek Inn, 1201 Woodbine, (816) 901-9600 or (800) 659-2220
- Drury Inn and Suites, 4213 Frederick, (816) 364-4700 or (800) 325-0720
- Hampton Inn, 3928 Frederick, (816) 390-9300 or (888) 370-0981
Register online at http://www.greatplainsgrowersconference.org. More information is also available by contacting Buchanan County Extension at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (816) 279-1691.
The Great Plains Growers Conference and trade show are a collaborative effort by University of Missouri Extension, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension and Research, Iowa State University Extension, Kansas State University Research and Extension, and Nebraska Extension.
— Nebraska Extension