Tim Penny: Give the gift of farmland to benefit rural Minnesota

Published 5:35 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

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Late last year, a gift of incredible magnitude was made to benefit the future of rural communities across southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.

Glen Taylor, one of Minnesota’s most well-known entrepreneurs, decided to donate significant parcels of farmland to a newly created foundation – the Taylor Family Farm Foundation. The income generated by the farmland will be distributed, in part, to three well-established partner foundations, including Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF). Going forward, these funds will support various programming and grantmaking in our rural region.

It is a dream of mine that other landowners in our region follow Mr. Taylor’s example and donate farmland, no matter how small, to benefit the communities of southern Minnesota. At SMIF, we have a program that can help you do just that. It is called Acres for Good.

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SMIF’s Acres for Good program allows farm families to donate their land as a charitable gift. What makes this model unique is that rather than liquidate the asset as most charities do, SMIF will retain the land and keep it in production by a rental arrangement. This allows retiring farmers the peace of mind that their land will continue to be farmed, especially if they do not have an heir to transfer the land to when the time comes.

What does it mean to give farmland as a gift? There are three options. You can give a gift during your lifetime, and you would get a charitable deduction on income tax. You can wait and give it in your will, and it would be released to SMIF upon your passing.

Or you can opt for a retained life estate where you keep the right to farm the land until you pass and then it automatically becomes a charitable gift. If you are not ready to donate all of your tillable farmland, you can also select a portion of your property to donate.

The Acres for Good program is also a way to do good things for your community. Like Mr. Taylor’s example, the net income stream from the land can be used to support southern Minnesota communities well into the future. Farmers can choose how they want to allocate their gift of land through this program.

There are several options.

For example, the benefit can go toward one of SMIF’s 32 Community Foundations which invest in their communities through grants and programs. From Harmony and Byron to Ellendale and St. James, SMIF has community foundations in every corner of its region.

Or, for a region-wide reach, farmers can allocate their gift toward SMIF’s general endowment, or SMIF’s specific funds which support youth and entrepreneurs in the region.

Another option is to set up a Donor Advised Fund to allocate resources to the donor’s specific interests such as a place of worship, an alma mater or a local charity.

Whichever avenue, these are all ways to leave a legacy that will make a huge difference in the future of southern Minnesota – and doing it all without having your family farm sold.

I was elated and impressed that Mr. Taylor would think of donating farmland to reinvest in the region where he grew up, raised his family and built businesses. In doing so, he is leaving a legacy that will last far into the future.

SMIF is here to help you create your own ongoing legacy. Even a gift of a few acres can make a big difference for the future of your community or a cause that is dear to your heart.

To learn more about the Acres for Good program visit smifoundation.org/acresforgood or contact Alissa Oeltjenbruns, Vice President of Community Vitality, at 507-214-7023 or alissao@smifoundation.org.

As always, I welcome your comments and questions. You can reach me at timp@smifoundation.org or 507-455-3215.