Play from Iowa’s Poet Laureate tackles farm land transition as part of Farm Show weekend, Map of My Kingdom, asks the question, “Who will get the farm?

Press Release from the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center – February 28, 2019


An Iowa-written play about the family farm will premier in southeastern Iowa Friday, March 1. The special production is a lead-in event to the 2019 Southeast Iowa Farm Show at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center Saturday, March 2.

The one-act drama centers around the fact that a vast amount of farm land in the United States is owned by those over age 65. Some farm owners 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 asks 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? Who’s going to get the farm? Or have you even started to think that far ahead?

Map of My Kingdom, commissioned by Practical Farmers of Iowa and written by Iowa’s Poet Laureate Mary Swander, tackles the critical issue of land transition. The actor takes on the persona of a lawyer and mediator in land transition disputes, who 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 peacefully rational solutions that focused not only on the viability of the family, but also of the land.

Land is the thread that binds all of the stories together. “For most farmers I know, owning land means everything,” Swander 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, to selling out to a neighbor, to attempts to preserve the land’s integrity against urban sprawl. The drama will inspire the hesitant and the fearful to start the conversation that cannot wait.

The play runs under 1 hour. The talkback post performance discussion runs about 20 to 30 minutes and will be facilitated by Sally Worley, Executive Director of Practical Farmers of Iowa, a farmer-led group working to equip farmers to build resilient farms and communities.

Fairfield Arts and Convention Executive Director Rustin Lippincott said the Center is excited to add this play performance as an opening event to the 2019 5th Annual SE Iowa Farm Show, which takes place at the convention center Saturday, March 2.

“The play is an awareness that’s informing for all of us, no matter our profession,” Lippincott said. “What happens to farm land has a profound effect on local economies. An awareness of the need for succession planning before it’s too late can be very beneficial for families.”

Farm Bureau of Jefferson and Van Buren counties are primary sponsors of the play’s premiere in southeast Iowa. Other sponsors so far include Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT), Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Sierra Club of Southeast Iowa, the Sustainable Living Coalition and Seven Roses Inn.

Though the play has been out for five years, Swander noted it has only been performed as far south as Washington, Iowa. Map of My Kingdom has been performed in Washington, DC for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and several locations in the northeastern U.S. Swander will be on tour with the play in the Pacific Northwest throughout February.

Convention Center board member Jean Greco who is coordinating the play coming to Fairfield, said Map of My Kingdom is a classic example of performance arts meeting real life and another example of the Center’s mission to be in service to the public with no admission charge. “It will be wonderfully illuminating to many viewers and we hope sets off a dialogue about hard -to-face issues among farm – owning families,” she said. Greco said she hopes this play can be the start of other plays by Iowa playwrights and plays with a message relevant to convention center audiences. “But until then, we hope the message about this one gets out far and wide,” she said.

For more information on Map of My Kingdom on Friday, March 1, 2019 and the 4th Annual Kenny Norton Southeast Iowa Farm Show on Saturday, March 2, 2019, please visit www.FairfieldACC.com.