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There’s no place like home

By Robyn Sims, NRCS Soil Conservation Technician

What happens when a group of twenty-four passionate women, associated in some way with the agricultural community of Concho County, Texas, come together for a few hours?  Amazing conversations by amazing women, that’s what.

Some of Concho County’s local ladies gathered at the VFW Post 8549 Hall in Eden, to have a discussion on the subject of transitioning from the wife or daughter of an agricultural operator to the principal agricultural operator due to a sudden death or debilitating illness of the husband and or father.  According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, of the 401 farms in Concho County, 57 farms (14.2 percent) have women as the principal operators.                                              

Attorney Karen Best discussed estate planning, but her portion of the program quickly transitioned into much more.  “Sometimes when people think about estate planning, the primary concern is addressing what happens to our belongings when we die.  But estate planning decides much more than just who gets our stuff.  Decisions about who will take care of us when we are ill, or can no longer make financial or medical decisions for ourselves are also a vital part of the estate plan.”

Best added, “As we age, our needs and assets change, as do the circumstances of those to whom we would leave our belongings.  And just as we change, so do the laws governing these issues.  It is a good idea that we take the time to consider 'estate planning' as something more than a set of documents in our safe-deposit boxes.  It is important that we pull those documents out and read them.  Make sure they are up to date so that they properly reflect our assets, our family situations, and our wishes for ourselves and our loved ones.”

“Wills, trusts, financial and medical powers of attorney, medical directives, and beneficiary designations on retirement, insurance policies and bank accounts are the tools most commonly used to achieve this end.  Cutting through the legalese in these documents can help you feel comfortable that you are in control of yourself, your assets, and your future,” Best concluded.

A priceless asset to the meeting was having Billie Jacobson, Mary Jean Owens, and Elizabeth Cypert share their personal experiences transitioning into the chief operator of their farms and ranches.  They shared their “what I wish I had known” lists, as well as management techniques they utilize in their operations to make them more efficient and profitable.  An optional tour of a recently installed rain harvesting system on the Cypert Ranch was also enjoyed by several attendees.

Other topics covered included Milissa Wright, Texas AgriLife Extension, discussing obtaining a private applicator license and the importance of chemical safety, while Kay Pfluger, USDA Farm Service Agency, gave a basic new producer overview regarding what documents are needed to establish themselves as a producer.  Kathleen Traweek and Robyn Sims covered conservation technical assistance and other program opportunities available through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as a down and dirty soil health demonstration.

The workshop closed with a lunch sponsored by the Concho Soil and Water Conservation District, prepared by On the Square Bakery and Deli. A delightful ending for a delightful day.

As everyone was parting, some off to the farm tour, one to check on an ailing husband, another for a doctor’s appointment, the same words were echoing through the air: “If y’all have another one of these, you better call me!”   

Concho County is a special place, that line between east and west, where the land is fragile, yet resilient.  It might be scarred by the sun, but it is truly gorgeous through and through.  Isn’t it interesting that same resilience and beauty is reflected in the ladies who call Concho County “home”?

People Helping People, Robyn Sims, NRCS Soil Conservation Technician(2017, November)