September 5, 2011; Source: Minnesota Public Radio | The Southwest Initiative Foundation is a regional community foundation that provides philanthropic support to southwest Minnesota in the areas of entrepreneurship, education and renewable energy. Minnesota Public Radio is reporting that the organization has recently added a program called Farmland Retention to its list of services, a new dual-purpose program to help tenant farmers stay on the land while they generate income for the foundation.
Through this program, the Southwest Initiative Foundation has already received two tracts of donated farmland from owners who might otherwise have sold it to buyers from outside the region. Instead, the donors got a tax break. Rents on these acreages are estimated to bring an added $58,000 to the foundation annually, which it can then apply to other program costs.
The potential for such a model over the next generation is huge. Sherry Ristau, president and chief executive officer of the Southwest Initiative Foundation, told MPR that between now and 2030, $4.5 billion of wealth will be transferred from one generation to the next from the 18-county region in southwestern Minnesota. Ristau expects that the new project could become a “critical tool for rural philanthropy” and expects that the significant transfer of land-based wealth will lead other foundations to follow the organization’s lead. Do you agree?—Anne Eigeman