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New play about farming in Illinois

New Play wrestles with issues facing new and retiring farmers

The Land Connection produces a play to stimulate discussion about farm transition dilemmas and options

The Land Connection is bringing a one-act play on the future of farming and farmland, What Will Be Your Legacy?, to Bloomington, Champaign, Peoria and Springfield.

All seats were full on opening night in downtown Bloomington last Friday, as the audience watched Gerald and Nettie, a retiring farmer and his wife, agonize over what would happen to the farm that had been in Nettie’s family for five generations.  

“This play will help cultivate awareness of critical issues faced by Illinois farmers and farming communities today,” says Land Connection Executive Director Terra Brockman. “It also presents ways that retiring and aspiring farmers might help each other find ways to steward the land into the future.”

The play also taps into core values of land stewardship. As Nettie says, “We don’t really own this land. Nobody does. We’re all just stewards — taking care of it for whoever comes next.”

What Will Be Your Legacy?

The play, written by the Minnesota Land Stewardship Project’s Doug Nopar, and originally entitled “Look Who’s Knockin’,” presents an elderly farm couple, Gerald and Nettie, wrestling with the question of what will happen to the land that has been in Nettie’s family for five generations.

Their dilemma is a common one as established farmers grow gray and neither their children nor grandchildren plan to return to the family farm. By bringing this issue to the stage here in Illinois, The Land Connection hopes to stimulate discussion about the issues and options for farmers, their land, and their communities.

This play ends with no clear answer, but gives the audience plenty to reflect on and talk about when the curtain falls. “We leave it open and ask the audience to react,” Brockman said. “We know every farm and every family situation is different. We’re looking for a discussion, a conversation about options.” 

One of the options might be to connect with a new young farmer. “We know these people,” says Brockman, “and know that they are ready to farm because they have completed the Central Illinois Farm Beginnings course and mentorship. All they need is a secure long term lease, or option to purchase. And often all they need is 5 to 25 acres.”

The play features central Illinois actors Cindy Hoey and Charles Brown, who play the elderly farm couple, Gerald and Nettie, and also Angela and John, an aspiring farm couple.   

What Will Be Your Legacy? is directed by local actor and organic farmer Doug Day, who says that this project has allowed him to combine his two favorite activities:  theatre and farming. After many years as an actor in New York, Doug and his wife Leslie began raising organic fruits and vegetables for local markets at Spring Bay Farm.

“Right now, the trend is toward fewer farmers and larger farms. But trends aren’t necessarily destiny,” says Brockman

The audience seemed to leave the Bloomington performances with a greater awareness of a different destiny — more new farmers stewarding the land, and more farms feeding their local communities healthy foods.

What Will Be Your Legacy? will be performed in March and April at the following locations.  All performances start at 6:30, feature local food, and are free and open to the public.

  • April 5, 6: St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 2200 South Philo Road, Urbana
  • April 19, 20:  U of I Extension, 700 S. Airport Drive, Springfield

By connecting people and land, The Land Connection weaves a web of relationships between generations and communities. 

For more information, please contact Cara Cummings or visit our website.

Terra Brockman is available for interviews; she can be reached by email.

Photo available: For a digital copy of a photo related to What Will be Your Legacy? contact Cara Cummings.

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