Reaping the benefits

Kendall Young Library Trustees traveled 185 miles on Wednesday to visit farms across and beyond Hamilton County.

Library Director Angie Martin-Schwarze said Kendall Young Library is unique because it receives the majority of its income through the leasing of farm land. Martin-Schwarze, Crystal Gordon who joined the board of trustees in early 2014, and several others visited 10 units of land owned by the library. In total, the library owns 1,820 acres of crop land.

The history of the library owning farm land goes back to the man that the library is named after. In the late 19th century, Farm Manager Richard Carlson said a group of women in Webster City asked Kendall Young for help and funding to create a local library.

“He turned them down flatly,” Carlson said. “Then, to everyone’s amazement a few years later, he left the bulk of his estate to fund the library.”

Kendall Young left his estate, which was valued at $150,000 according to “Kendall Young and the Kendall Young Library of Webster City, Iowa,” to the City in order to establish and maintain a library. His estate also included six tracts of land in Hamilton County, including 560 acres, and four tracts of land in Wright County, including 360 acres to the trustees. At the time of Kendall Young’s death, it was simply fenced-in prairie. Shortly after, trustees converted those prairie areas to farm land.

Treasurer Dick Anderson said the library has since purchased more land for farming. It has also been given land in bequests. Money gained from leasing those lands, according to Martin-Schwarze, makes up about 75 percent of the library’s annual income.

“We’re just such an unusual library and such a lucky community to have had this gift of all this land that’s provided for over a hundred years for the majority of the operational costs,” Martin-Schwarze said.

Those assets require oversight, and that’s where Carlson comes in. The library employs him to manage its farmlands through the Farmers National Company. At monthly meetings, he shares a report on the farm land with the trustees. However, on occasion, he takes the trustees to see the land themselves. Gordon said it’s important for the trustees to get that firsthand experience and early June is the perfect time of year to hold a tour.

“At our meetings, we talk about these farms, and (Carlson) talks to us about tiling and other needs,” Gordon said. “This is a good time of the year to see it, especially since we just had some rain so we can see wet spots and problem areas related to tiling.”

If the trustees would have waited much longer, they couldn’t see those spots or get a good perspective on the landscape because rising crops would limit their view.

How well the crops do on the library’s land is important to the trustees. They don’t sell the crops themselves, but they used to. Up until about 20 years ago, Carlson said the library would share the cost of preparing the land and growing the crops with farmers and would then share the crops with them. However, that practice was troublesome when it came time to make the annual budget.

After a particularly poor year for crops in 1993, Carlson said the library began leasing the land to farmers. The library sets the cost of the lease each year, and farmers are free to reap their own crops on the land.

Through the donations of Kendall Young and other area farmers, the library has had a way to support the funding of salaries, the purchasing of books and other items and the upkeep of the building for more than a century in Webster City.