Sills celebrates one year with Iowa Land Management, opens Dysart office

Conservation takes center stage with new lease option


DYSART – A year ago this month, rural Dysart resident Jeremy Sills took a big leap by purchasing the longtime Vinton realty firm for which he once worked as a crop advisor and licensed real estate broker – Iowa Land Management and Real Estate Company. And since that time he’s leaped even further by opening a downtown Dysart office for the business.

“We [cover] farm management, residential, commercial and agricultural real estate sales. We also do quite a bit of consulting and court work,” Sills, a young father and veteran who lives with his wife Chelsea and their two children near the Benton-Tama line, told the Telegraph while describing his diversified business earlier this year in an email exchange.

While the realty/farm management firm has long been a part of the downtown Vinton business community – opening in the 1970s before subsequently undergoing a name change in 2005 – the expansion into Dysart, Sills says, came about for logistical reasons.

“I wanted to open up a second office space to better serve the Dysart community and greater Tama County … We currently manage farms in the eastern two-thirds of Iowa, in southern Minnesota, and in Illinois [while] I am licensed to sell real estate in Iowa and Minnesota.”

The business’s leased Dysart office – located behind the Dysart State Bank on Wilson Street across from City Hall – opened earlier this year following Sills’ purchase of the business in October of 2022.

“It took about five years of conversations with the previous [Iowa Land Management] owner [David Wessling] and a lot of preparation,” Sills explained. “It takes a diverse skill set in this industry to be successful. From farming to land values, real estate to government programs and a lot in between. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to develop these skills through previous roles.”

Sills, a West Virginia native who grew up in Virginia, began his career in the Navy where he served for five years on active duty before moving to Iowa to help farm with his wife’s family. During those nine years of farming, he used the G.I. Bill to earn a biology degree from the University of Northern Iowa after which he became a Certified Crop Advisor.

“[I] had a job as a conservation agronomist and a Technical Service Provider for the NRCS. Then I got into farm management and real estate here before overseeing U.S. Bank’s farm management in eastern Iowa, Wisconsin, and northwest Illinois before coming back to buy Iowa Land Management and Real Estate.”

Until recently, Sills was also a soil and water conservation district commissioner for Benton County. He elected not to run again in 2022.

Today, as the one-year anniversary of his purchase of the business nears, Sills spends his days wearing a lot of different hats.

“[My] daily tasks include farm visits, tenant interaction, government program compliance, client meetings, market research, listings, showings, closings, marketing, and financial accounting for farm management clients.”

One of the biggest stories over the last year has been the myriad of changes taking place in the real estate market. From frustratingly low inventory to record-breaking interest rates to home prices skyrocketing, there seems to be a new angle on the story published every week.

“We have seen a shift in rural communities to a more depressed real estate market with an interesting twist – inventory and demand are both low. With both buyers and sellers apprehensive to make a move into a higher interest rate environment,” Sills said. “Many homeowners locked in very low rates leading up to our current inflationary period and are just unwilling to give that up.”

“I think we will continue to see some erosion in home prices until interest rates level off or move downward. Acreages on the other hand are still highly sought after and continue to command a premium for the right one.”

Currently, Sills has one farm listing on his website – a 90-acre listing of “rolling farm land ready for division” into smaller building lots located in the city limits of Vinton in Benton County. He also has three acreages listed for sale including in rural Van Horne and rural Urbana in Benton County, and in rural Traer in Tama County.

“I would say if you are in the market to buy, there are deals out there — be patient but be ready to pull the trigger quickly. Talk with your lender and have your pre approval in advance.”

The bulk of Sills’ work, however, revolves around farm management including how to incorporate conservation practices into a lease – something Sills is particularly dedicated to as a former conservation commissioner.

“Farm managers provide an unbiased third-party approach that understands current farm leasing markets, government programs, land stewardship and sustainability, “ Sills explained. “Many times, landowners are uneasy negotiating lease terms or having difficult conversations so it can be a relief for them to have a farm manager step into that role. Other times the landowner might live out of state and need to have a manager find a new tenant, negotiate lease terms, pay property taxes and insurance, and manage CRP and other government programs while providing accounting of the farm’s financials.”

To further encourage conservation practices on the farm, Sills added the Conservation Farm Lease to his business offerings earlier this year. With more than 50% of Iowa farmland now being leased or rented, the option can be particularly attractive to non-farming landowners who still want to have a say in how their Century or even Heritage land is farmed.

“Over the last few years, the agricultural landscape in the Midwest has been greatly influenced by concerns regarding soil health and water quality, and rightfully so,” Sills writes on his website regarding the Conservation Farm Lease. “At our company, we view each farm as an investment asset, recognizing that the soil health directly impacts the long-term preservation of that valuable land.”

Sills goes on to write that to the best of his and his employees’ knowledge, the new lease option is “the first of its kind to be implemented on a large scale in the farm management industry.”

In addition to Sills, Iowa Land Management continues to employ Dave Wessling – the previous owner – as an active real estate agent and consultant, as well as Tami Stark as both the business’s office manager and a real estate agent.

In a state that is more and more trending toward rural expanses owned by those who do not farm the land themselves, Sills’ company appears primed to play an important role in helping to steward the land not just for those who own it – but for the generations to come who will continue to breathe the air, drink the water, and drive among the fields on their way to work and play in this special place between two rivers they call home.

For more information on Iowa Land Management and Real Estate Company, visit the business’s website at https://iowalandco.com To learn more about the company’s new Conservation Farm Lease, contact Jeremy Sills at (319) 472-5353, or by email at info@iowalandco.com.