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Heller's Farm Machinery Yields

Heller's Farm Machinery Yields

Everything has a season. When it was time for Roger Heller to retire from farming, the 88-year-old donated a portion of his farm equipment to a charitable trust to benefit his family, SDSU, and another charity.

"Retiring from farming was something I did with mixed emotions because farming has been a part of my life for a long time," explained Heller, who grew up on a farm near Revillo, South Dakota. "I love to grow things and enjoyed the challenges that farming brings."

Passionate about farming and the people involved in agriculture, Heller said although the decision to retire was a difficult one, the fact that funds from the sale of his farm equipment will benefit students who are the next generation of farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness professionals makes him feel good. "I think it is a natural fit that these funds go to benefit SDSU," said Heller, a 1953 graduate. "I see a tremendous need for strong leadership in rural America. The future of rural communities, their schools, and their churches, depends on good leadership, and SDSU is building leaders for agriculture."

Developing young leaders became a focus for Heller during the 10 years he put his agriculture education degree to work, teaching rural youth about the science of agriculture and helping them develop their leadership skills as a high school FFA advisor. "The most rewarding part of teaching was to see young people begin to reach their potential when they were exposed to opportunities to develop their leadership and technical skills," Heller said of FFA, the hands-on leadership program designed to serve students enrolled in agriculture classes.

Heller quit teaching when he purchased his Renville County, Minnesota, farm in 1962, but he never quit educating. He found himself leading seminars for farmers as part of the farm management and real estate business he started. Even today, Heller continues to lead informational seminars for his clients and the employee team of Heller Group Land Company.

Tax-exempt asset sale

Heller began giving back to SDSU several years ago, funding scholarships for students pursuing agriculture education degrees.

"I have followed the agriculture programming at SDSU in recent years. I met President Dunn and I am impressed with the things happening on campus, like the Raven Precision Agriculture Center," Heller said.

When he knew he would be retiring from farming and would no longer need his machinery, he worked with the SDSU Foundation's Office of Gift Planning, to put together a rawhide trust.

A version of the more commonly known charitable remainder trust, rawhide trusts are tax-exempt and need to be established prior to the sale of tangible property like machinery, grain, or livestock. The trust allows donors to avoid otherwise taxable income upon the sale of these assets and receive an annual income based on a percentage of the overall gift.

Once Heller donated a portion of his machinery to the rawhide trust, he then auctioned the machinery, selling it tax-free. The proceeds are now working for him and his family for a selected term of years. Upon the end of the trust term, the remainder will go to support SDSU and another charity.

"This is a good use of the equipment we used and don't need any more. Anything I can do to encourage young men and women to stay in school and get their degrees, I want to do," said Heller.


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