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See a one-woman play, Map of My Kingdom, which asks the age-old question of land inheritance, "Who's going to get the farm?"
Mary Swander, Iowa's poet laureate, was charged with a unique task by Practical Farmers of Iowa: to write a play centered on the conflicts of transferring land from one generation to the next. The resulting Map of My Kingdom is now on the road, making its way through the Midwest, to get people talking about this potentially volatile situation.
The play is directed by Matt Foss, professor of acting and theater history at Iowa State University, and performed by Maria Vorhis, a professional actor based in Chicago. Afterward, Swander will lead a "talk-back" discussion with the audience.
In the drama, the character Angela Martin, a lawyer and mediator in land transition disputes, shares stories of how farmers and landowners she has worked with over the years approached their land successions. Some families almost came to blows, struggling to resolve the sale or transfer of their land, dissolving relationships. Others found peaceful, rational solutions that focused not only on the viability of the family, but also of the land.
“For most farmers I know, owning land means everything,” the character Angela Martin says. Map of My Kingdom will resonate with those who have been through or are working through challenging land transfer issues that include division of the land among siblings, selling out to a neighbor, or attempts to preserve the land's integrity against urban sprawl. The drama inspires the hesitant and apprehensive to start a conversation that cannot wait.
Today, a vast amount of land in the United States is owned by those over 65 years old. Some have made their wishes clear for the future of their property. Others are courting family upheaval by not planning in concrete ways. An age-old problem, evident in literature from the Bible to King Lear to Willa Cather, land transition brings up hard questions: Who really owns the land? And what is the role of the steward of a property? Can "fair" become "unfair" to one's children?