Decorah – Lyle and Sue Luzum of Calmar, IA donated their entire family farm to Iowa’s newest land trust at a ceremony at Decorah Bank and Trust Friday.
The 170 acres the Luzum family has farmed since 1873 is the largest yet for the young land trust, more than doubling its 115 acres over 3 farms it has acquired in its first two years.
“This is the first time in Iowa’s history that a family has committed such a large tract to permanent sustainable food production,” said SILT President Suzan Erem. “The Luzum family has provided an incredible gift to future food farmers, food lovers and our natural environment.”
The donation includes the Luzum home, outbuildings and equipment. The land comes with newly-signed CRP contracts on 98 acres, making the farm a manageable size for a beginning fruit, vegetable and/or rotational grazing operation. Lyle Luzum is currently raising sheep and growing organic grains on a total of 40 acres and is interested in mentoring the next farmer. Family-owned Decorah Bank is assisting in financing a small part of the donation for the Luzum’s modest retirement home in Decorah. The bank is well-known for its support of local family farms and sustainability initiatives.
Lyle Luzum was introduced to the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust when Dave Lester, General Manager of the Oneota Food Co-op, invited Erem to speak at its annual meeting more than two years ago. The two have been in discussions since then. The Luzums hosted a SILT Showcase day at their farm last summer that drew nearly 50 people.
SILT’s commitment to permanently protecting land to grow healthy food provides affordable land access to future generations of sustainable food farmers while improving water and soil quality. The organization offers long-term land leases while giving farmers the option to gain equity in the buildings, radically reducing debt a new farmer incurs to get started.
SILT announced the farming opportunity at the signing ceremony. Applications will soon be available at silt.org and a gathering at the farm for prospective new farmers and interested landowners is scheduled for 2 pm June 25.
“Our daughter was the last in our line,” Lyle Luzum explained. “SILT is connecting the land to future farmers who believe as we do in using land to produce food in a way that protects our planet for the future.”
The Luzums’ daughter Steph Hughes agreed. After the 2016 Showcase she wrote this on her Facebook page:
“Our parents are trying to figure out how to pass farms to the next generation, who, like me, isn’t necessarily interested in farming. But, we all know there are young farmers who are only held back due to land prices being a nearly impossible hurdle. And, like me, these people want to eat. Preferably healthy, local, sustainable food which nourishes our bodies while providing an income and life for a new generation of families who will care for the land the same way our families did for the last several generations. We don’t want to see decades of work be undone by seeing the land swallowed up by mega corporations, sold to the highest bidder. My family is working on donating our farm to this organization and I couldn’t be happier that someone had the foresight to create such a trust.”
SILT celebrated the newest additions to the SILT family with a reception at Decorah Bank and Trust with many people who’ve served with the Luzums on boards over the years, coffee and cakes at the Luzum home with extended family and then a dinner at a local restaurant with SILT Adviser Paul Johnson and his wife Pat. SILT Board Members Suzan Erem and Paul Durrenberger and SILT Executive Director Sheila Knoploh-Odole spent a day filled with laughter and tears with the Luzum family.
The donation means SILT now protects 4 Iowa farms totaling nearly 300 acres. According to SILT board member and ISU economist David Swenson, 50 acres can feed 10,000 people the fruits and vegetables they would normally eat in a summer.