Five years after their father's death, Ellingson's three children had grown weary of the demands of running a farm. Their tenant farmer had retired, and finding a new one was tough. The youngest of them was 60 -- too old, they agreed, to return to a life of risky finances and long work days.
Combines and corn were not part of the lives of Donald's eight grandchildren or his 14 great-grandchildren. They live far from here. And given land prices these days, the family agreed it was the right time to let the past go.
"I think dad would be fine with us selling the land," said Diane Guerrttman, 60, who lives in Wyoming and works with at-risk children.
Across the Midwest, the dizzying surge in rural land prices is accelerating a fundamental reshaping of the farm sector in the world's biggest food exporter. Instead of digging in to benefit from the boom in grain prices, the next generation is opting to cash out of the small, family-owned farms that harbor centuries of rural wisdom and deep tradition.