We were grabbing a bite, waiting for our flight home from the Commodity Classic, when a man and his grandson sat down next to us. “Egg McMuffin, extra toasted, small diet coke,” I heard the man say next to me at the John Wayne airport.
Wrapping up a big week at this big national farmer meeting, my friend and I were deeply involved in a conversation about the dynamics involved in selling a crop. I was explaining the gut check that happens when the market goes up the day after I sell. Just then the older man said to me, “farming is a great life,”
He said. “I just sold my wife’s family farm in Illinois for $2.4 million. I became a rich man overnight.”
I asked him why he sold the farm. His reply: “Why not? I’m 78. My kids won’t ever farm. We were paid cash. It was willed to her by her grandfather.”
He didn’t know where it was in Illinois other than somewhere in the “middle” of the state. He had known about the farm through 47 years of marriage, but had never been on site. He swapped cash rent for a much bigger payout.
What’s the point?
The reality is that a large chunk of farm ground is owned by people like this man. They are retirement age, have no stories about growing up on the farm, and have little connection to the land.
It’s easier to sell the land rather than divide up between children who might fight about it. Although a farm provides steady revenue to owners, a cash payout can also make sense.
As we made our way to our gate, I thanked the man for the nice chat. As I was walking away, I asked “Why are you ordering from the dollar menu if you just became a millionaire?” He said, “because the Egg McMuffin is the best sandwich in the whole world.”
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.