The value of land

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 18, 2017

What’s the real value of an acre of Iowa farmland? It depends on who you ask and what you mean by value. My ag economist training will look at the net present value of future earnings from the farm. The Iowa farm boy in me knows that there are intangibles that are difficult to put a price on. The farm I grew up on in Mills County sold the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We were tenants and never owned it, but it shaped me from an early age. My sister tried to convince me to buy it when it sold in the early 1990s. She said the place had a lot of memories. I pointed out it also had a lot of ditch and it wasn’t that good of a farm. This time the farm sold for approximately three times the price from 25 years earlier. I guess I missed out on both counts.

Iowa State University has been analyzing the monetary value of Iowa’s farm land annually since 1941, and we were the first in the nation to do so. The ISU Land Value Survey provides information on general land value trends, geographical land price relationships and factors that influence the Iowa land market. The survey doesn’t provide a direct estimate for any particular piece of property. Did you know?

  • After three years of decline, the average estimated value of an acre of Iowa farmland increased to $7,326 in 2017. (See the news release to learn more.)
  • The survey is based on reports by licensed real estate brokers, farm managers, appraisers, ag lenders and others who know land market conditions, as well as actual land sales. The 2017 survey is based on estimates from 710 agricultural professionals.
  • Wendong Zhang has led the survey since 2015. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Economics and extension economist, and is affiliated with the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development. Previously, extension economist Mike Duffy led the survey, from 1983 to 2014.
  • CARD has developed a portal where you can dig deeper into the 2017 survey results, find more land value data and examine land value trends and expectations.

A few more notes

  • U-TuRN, Iowa State’s new transdisciplinary, translational research network, would like ISU Extension and Outreach staff, faculty and council members to take part in a survey. U-TuRN is seeking our help in better understanding the community health challenges facing Iowans, as well as the resources available to address these issues. We’re not health professionals, but the work we do in ISU Extension and Outreach is vital to Iowans’ health and wellbeing. Please participate in the U-TuRN survey by Jan. 15.
  • Whether you plan to be out for a day, a week or longer during the holidays, also plan for how your clients can get their needs met while you’re gone. Two easy steps are to 1) set up an automated email response with information about who to contact for immediate assistance, and 2) update your voice mail messages with the same information.
  • Please join me in thanking all the folks who recited the Extension Professional’s Creed for our special holiday video. They represented us well. Also, please share the video with people in your network. It may not explain to your brother-in-law what you do, but it is a fun and effective way to explain why we do it.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Our creed

John Lawrence’s message from July 24, 2017

I can’t let July pass by without acknowledging a special anniversary. For 90 years the Extension Professional’s Creed has been the official creed of Epsilon Sigma Phi, the national extension fraternity. It likely was a hot day in Reno back in July 1927 when the creed was adopted at ESP’s first national council meeting. Did you know?

  • ESP founder W. A. Lloyd prepared the original creed as a New Year’s greeting to county agricultural agents. It’s included in the 1952 book “The Spirit and Philosophy of Extension Work,” edited by Iowa State’s own R.K. Bliss.
  • The creed is older than Iowa State’s Alpha Mu Chapter of ESP, which was established Oct. 30, 1928.
  • “The Extension Worker’s Creed,” as it was originally titled, focused on agriculture. As extension work has developed and expanded over the years, the creed has been revised from time to time to reflect changes in societal values, educational trends and federal laws.

We recite the creed together during our annual conference once a year. But we live the creed every day. I keep a framed copy above my desk, and oftentimes I’ll find myself reflecting on its message. I believe that when we provide individuals with the best information, they will make the decision that’s not only best for them, but for their community and for society as a whole.

I’ve been an extension professional my entire career. My first job out of graduate school was with University of Minnesota Extension. I was up there for about a year and a half before an opening came up at Iowa State. (I’ve been back on campus since July 1, 1991.) I’m passionate about ISU Extension and Outreach because of what we accomplish. I see our colleagues out there doing great things every day, bringing research based information and knowledge to Iowans. Whether we’re working with communities, families, youth or agriculture, ISU Extension and Outreach is making a difference in our state. We’re having an impact on people’s lives.

The Extension Professional’s Creed is a touchstone that can help all of us stay grounded. So when you’re having a good day or a not-so-good day, read the creed and remind yourself why you are part of ISU Extension and Outreach, why you’re passionate about your work, and why we all do what we do, together.

One more thing: Areas of abnormally dry and moderate drought are expanding across Iowa. To help you respond to questions you may be asked, we’ve updated our webpage, Dealing with Drought 2017. You’ll find links to current educational resources from ISU Extension and Outreach, Extension Disaster Education Network and other partners.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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