"The further away you get from the generation that lived on the farm, the more the interest tends to shift from emotion to cash flow," Hill said. "That's just how agriculture has changed, especially in the last three or four years. People are paying closer attention to the assets, especially when they realize that 160 acres of farmland may be worth $1 million."

NEVADA, Iowa (AP)--Ruth Myers recalls breezy, fall afternoons with her mother, Isabel, sitting in the shade of an apple tree on their farm just west of Nevada.

"Mother pared the apples, and I'd sit nearby while we chatted," Myers said recently during a visit to the property with Larry Pohlman, of Nevada-based Hertz Farm Management Inc.

Pohlman spent the better part of the day with Myers, showing her around the ancestral family farm and talking about the crops, the weather and how well the grain elevators were holding up.

Myers and her forbears have owned the land long enough so the property qualifies as a Century Farm.

Nowadays, Myers, 85, lives in Miami. Her three children are out-of-towners, too, residing in Texas and California.

But these absentee landowners are still involved with their Iowa farmland, seeing to it that the property is cared for and that it's producing. They get help doing it from property managers such as Hertz or Eagle Grove-based Farmers National Company.

"We manage about 2,000 farms consisting of 460,000 acres," said Loyd Brown, of Hertz.

Properties are located mainly in Iowa.

"The majority of our clients inherited the farms from their parents or grandparents," Brown said. "They may not be farmers, themselves, any longer, but the families who continue to own them consider the land an important asset."

The 1,100 clients served by Farmers National own farms in Iowa, South Dakota and the Red River Valley of North Dakota, according to Larry Hill, regional manager for the area.

"The clients who approach us have a mixture of reasons for doing so," Hill said. "Depending on how recently they lived on the property, there might be an emotional attachment that they still have. But everyone has their own reasons, and, basically, they want the farm to be well taken care of."

Brown said his company also manages property owned by investors, trusts, even church congregations or municipalities. Services include contracting with local people to work the land, taking care of upfront costs, buying equipment, planting, harvesting and marketing the crops.

For owners like Myers, who grew up in Nevada, there are still strong ties to the land.

"Oh my, yes, the town was a wonderful place to live," she said.

She said she makes annual donations to the city and has supported its water park, soccer fields and library. The family donated the historic Dyer Dowell house to the city after the death of Ruth's mother, Isabel Dyer Dowell.

It's undeniable there are fewer on-site farm owners today than a generation or two in the past.

"Over half the land in the Midwest is rented," Brown said. "It might be leased to a neighboring farmer or, more likely, one who lives in the neighborhood."

And, as time passes, the direct connections are fewer.

"The further away you get from the generation that lived on the farm, the more the interest tends to shift from emotion to cash flow," Hill said. "That's just how agriculture has changed, especially in the last three or four years. People are paying closer attention to the assets, especially when they realize that 160 acres of farmland may be worth $1 million."

But there are still folks around like Ruth Myers, who grew up on the land and still have a high regard for it.

"They are very stewardship-minded," Brown said. "There's an impression that absentee landlords are only after the money that the farm produces. Nothing could be further from the truth. By far, the majority of our clients are family members."

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