Map of My Kingdom Play Examines Farm Transitions

“Would my husband and I automatically move into town so the next generation can move in?” asked a farmer. “And what would be our plans for our farm if our children will run it as ‘absentee landlords’?”

Such questions and others filled a room in Columbus, Nebraska, one day in March. What are the decisions that farm and ranch families make around the next generation to own their land? Do these decisions strengthen the family, or cause friction and bad feelings? Are there examples or help to work through these decisions?

A rapt audience participated in a theatrical production and panel discussion of how families deal with the questions of who works the land in the next generation. Center for Rural Affairs sponsored a production of Map of My Kingdom, a play written by Iowa’s Poet Laureate Mary Swander and commissioned by Practical Farmers of Iowa in 2014.

Actor Cora Vander Broek performed the one-person play, depicting a rural lawyer and other characters wrestling with what happens with a family’s land. A panel of farmers and advisors discussed the play with the audience after the performance.

“Land transition is going to be a major issue in rural areas in the next 10-20 years,” said a member of the audience. “This play can only help any family that will have to make future decisions.”

The panel included two farm families working on non-family transitions that included selling farmland to the incoming non-family farmer early in the process. “We need more of that,” commented another audience member.

“The way of life and respect for the land are essential pieces to consider”, said one audience member. “It’s obvious that every party needs to communicate their vision and goals.”

In addition to stories of families and land in the play and in attendee’s families, participants shared resources they had found: mediation programs, University of Nebraska advising, financing sources, and estate planning materials.

“This play is a great example of how the arts can drive meaningful conversation in our communities,” noted Brian Depew, the Center’s Executive Director.

Farm transition resources are available on our website:

Feature image: Actor Cora Vander Broek, seated far left, responds to a question from the audience after her performance of Map of My Kingdom. The panel discussion was part of a special event funded in part by Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Photo by Elisha Smith