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Think your home value is soaring? Talk to a farmer.

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Think your home value is soaring? Talk to a farmer.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Fourth-generation corn and soybean farmer Jeff Frank doesn’t feel rich, but simply based on the skyrocketing value of his land in northwest Iowa, it’s an apt way to describe him, even if he laughs at the idea.

He lives in the same nearly century-old house, grows veggies in the family garden and shops at the same grocery store about 15 miles (24 kilometers) down the road. “We live the same way we have all of our lives,” he said.

Still, even if Frank’s life hasn’t changed, the several hundred acres he owns about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northwest of Des Moines have suddenly made him worth millions of dollars.

It may come as a surprise to city dwellers excited by their home values that countless farmers like Frank are actually experiencing a real estate boom that makes residential prices pale in comparison. While median existing-home prices rose by 15.8% in the U.S. last year, farmland values went up about double that rate in places like Iowa.

“I’m definitely surprised by the magnitude,” said Wendong Zhang, an economist at Iowa State University who oversees an annual farmland value survey.

The rising values, especially in the Midwest, are due to high prices being paid for the key commodity crops of corn and soybeans, plentiful harvests in recent years coupled with low interest rates and optimism the good times will continue.

But they’re a mixed blessing. They’re enriching farmers who already have a lot of land, but making it much harder for small operators or younger farmers starting out to get land unless they happen to inherit it.

Most purchases are by operations that see the value of larger scale, seizing the chance to buy nearby land.

“If you miss this opportunity, you may not get another chance,” Zhang said, describing the current mood.

As for consumers, higher land costs typically don’t affect grocery prices.

Historically, farmland values rise and fall, but in the past couple decades they have mostly risen, and in the past year they have risen a lot — 33% in Frank’s part of the state and 29% throughout Iowa, one of the nation’s top agricultural states. Agricultural prices also have soared elsewhere in the Midwest and have climbed in most other parts of the country, too.

Federal Reserve Banks in Chicago and Kansas City reported double-digit increases in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Nebraska.

In Iowa, average farmland has risen from $7,559 an acre in 2020 to $9,751 an acre in 2021.

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Trevor Williams sets the tone as Mets pick up Game 1 win in doubleheader vs. Cards

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Trevor Williams sets the tone as Mets pick up Game 1 win in doubleheader vs. Cards

The Mets offense did its part, knocking in a few runs early, and it was up to the spot starter in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader to keep the Cardinals off the board.

Trevor Williams, tasked with the job of filling in for Tylor Megill (right biceps tendinitis), established the tone in his second start of the year for the Mets. Williams struck out six, including two against Yadier Molina and another with Nolan Arendado in the box, in what seemed like an effortless outing against a St. Louis team that believes it can be a playoff contender.

“Learning this new role has been a fun challenge for me,” said Williams, who was a regular starter for the Pirates and Cubs before he joined the Mets at last year’s trade deadline.

Williams fired four shutout innings and allowed four hits across 65 pitches to help the Mets beat the Cardinals, 3-1, in the series opener on Tuesday. The right-hander, typically the innings-eater out of the bullpen, picked up where he left off in his most recent relief outing, when he posted 3.2 scoreless innings against the Nationals last Wednesday. On five days’ rest, Williams’ smooth and steady performance against the Cards was just what the Mets were looking for.

The righty credited backup catcher Patrick Mazeika, who is enjoying his promotion from Syracuse while James McCann (left hamate surgery) is on the shelf, for calling a good game.

“To come in as the third catcher and get thrown into it right away, it’s just a testament to the type of player he is and we were really on the same page all game,” said Williams of his backstop.

The Mets (24-13) on Tuesday began a stretch of 10 games in nine days, which meant manager Buck Showalter was forced to be a little creative with his bullpen use in the opener of the doubleheader. After Williams impressed with his four shutout innings, Showalter called on reliever Jake Reed as the first man out of the bullpen.

Reed, making his season debut, had an adventurous fifth inning as he walked two of his first three batters. Mazeika called for a quick mound visit, as Reed’s teammates encouraged him to brush off the nerves and attack the hitters. Perhaps that mound visit was the quick breather he needed. Reed bounced back to strike out Paul Goldschmidt and retire Arenado to end the inning. Reed took the mound again for the sixth, shutting down the side to complete his two scoreless innings. He was optioned to Syracuse between games.

After Reed, Showalter went to his circle of trusted relievers – bringing out Seth Lugo, Drew Smith, then Edwin Diaz to silence the Cardinals. While Smith gave up a home run to Goldschmidt, Diaz in particular was electric. The Mets closer picked up his ninth save of the year. Diaz has struck out 30 of the 60 batters he’s faced this season.

“You ride it when it’s hot,” Showalter said of Diaz’s confidence and results to begin the season. “These are really good hitters. He keeps grinding, he keeps working. It doesn’t go unnoticed. Edwin has been instrumental in what we’ve been able to do early on.”

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Vikings’ Danielle Hunter happy to be healthy and to have developed ‘bond’ with Za’Darius Smith

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Vikings’ Danielle Hunter happy to be healthy and to have developed ‘bond’ with Za’Darius Smith

Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are new teammates, but they’re already like old buddies.

The two Vikings edge rushers first struck up a friendship at the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Fla., in January 2020, when Hunter was with Minnesota and Smith with Green Bay. Smith signed with the Vikings as a free agent in March, and he has been hanging out with Hunter plenty since offseason drills began in April.

On Tuesday’s second day of organized team activities, the two jokingly threw passes back and forth for several minutes at the start before they settled down to more serious business.

“The first time I met him (at the Pro Bowl), he was a cool, young, good overall character and all that stuff,’ Hunter said. “He came here, I was excited about it. He texted me saying he was coming here, and we started developing a bond.”

Smith said it’s “wonderful” to now be Smith’s teammate. And the two hope to recreate the old motto of the Purple People Eaters to “meet at the quarterback.”

“I say one of the best in the NFL,’’ Smith said of the pass-rushing duo the Vikings now have. “But you know, it’s too early. We’re just gonna keep working and getting better at our craft, and you’ll see the results here in the season.”

Hunter had 14½ sacks in both 2018 and 2019 before playing in just seven games over the past two seasons due to injuries. Smith had 13½ sacks for the Packers in 2019 and 12½ in 2020 before playing in just one regular-season game and one playoff game last season due to a back injury.

Smith talked about his health after he signed, saying he’s fully recovered. But Hunter didn’t discuss his latest injury until Tuesday, when he spoke to the media for the first time since Sept. 29.

Hunter missed all of 2020 due to a neck injury. He didn’t play in the final 10 games last season because of surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle suffered Oct. 31 against Dallas.

“I feel pretty good,’’ said Hunter, entering his eighth season. “Last year’s injury wasn’t as significant as the year before, but it was a three-month recovery. Had we made it to the playoffs, iI’s possibly would have been able to come back. … It’s just good to be back with the guys. …It kind of hurts just watching people play.’’

Hunter said it was “around February or March” when he returned to his regular workout routine.

“The biggest thing was having like the right people around me, just motivating me and keeping me in the right mindset,’’ he said of his recovery.

Coming off the injury, there was seemingly some uncertainty on what the Vikings might do when they had until March 19 to decide whether to pick up an $18 million roster bonus on Hunter’s contract. They did pick it up, and converted it into a signing bonus over four years, lowering Hunter’s cap number from $25.838 million to $12.338 million for 2021.

“I wasn’t really worried about (the bonus),’’ said Hunter, who said new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah reached out to him right after he was hired in January and new head coach Kevin O’Connell reached out right after his February hiring. “My biggest thing was getting through my rehab and coming back playing football.’’

Hunter said he let his agent, Zeke Sandhu, take care of discussions about the bonus. And Hunter, whose contract runs through 2023, plans to do the same regarding extension talks.

For now, Hunter’s role will change in new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell’s 3-4 scheme. After being a defensive end in the 4-3, he said he’ll play both defensive end and outside linebacker but will stand up much more than before.

“I used to stand up when I first got here (in 2015),’’ said Hunter, who noted that the Vikings played some 3-4 alignments in Week 2 last year at Arizona. “So I know how to do that. Basically, just integrating my rush angles and my eyes and all that stuff.”

Hunter figures to be more of an outside linebacker since, when he attends position meetings, he goes to one for outside linebackers. He joins his buddy Smith in those meetings, where he said their close relationship results in a good vibe.

“Everybody has a smile on their face every time they come in,’’ Hunter said.

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Celtics without Marcus Smart, Al Horford for East finals Game 1 vs. Heat, joining Miami’s Lowry as out

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Celtics without Marcus Smart, Al Horford for East finals Game 1 vs. Heat, joining Heat’s Lowry as out

A potentially seismic shift hit the Eastern Conference finals less than three hours prior to Tuesday night’s start of Game 1 at FTX Arena, when the Boston Celtics announced that forward Al Horford had entered NBA health-and-safety protocols and would be out for the series opener against the Miami Heat.

The designation not only had Horford out for Tuesday’s start of the best-of-seven series, but also, based on the NBA’s required quarantine in such cases, possibly out for Thursday night’s Game 2 at FTX Arena and Saturday’s Game 3 at TD Garden.

“We found out about Al about two hours ago,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said, less than two hours before tipoff.

Udoka indicated that upcoming testing results could impact the timing of a Horford return.

“He’s feeling fine,” Udoka said, “and we’ll go from there, wait to see results of tests and future tests.”

Udoka said he was unaware of any contact-tracing issues with others on the team.

It is the third time this season Horford, 35, has entered NBA protocols.

In addition, the Celtics announced that a second starter, point guard Marcus Smart, would miss the series opener due to the right mid-foot sprain sustained during Sunday’s Game 7 victory over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks that advanced them to the East finals against the Heat.

Smart was listed as questionable earlier in the day. Horford had not appeared on the Celtics’ injury report until he was listed as out.

“The soreness was too much,” Udoka said of Smart’s injury, “still some swelling, and limited basketball movements that he couldn’t do.”

Derrick White was the replacement starter for Smart, with recently injured Robert Williams moving back into the lineup in Boston’s power rotation.

“I feel like this is the world we’ve been living in for a long time, certainly this year,” Spoelstra said of the lingering uncertainties amid the pandemic, “Every team has experience dealing with this.”

Or working on the fly with evolving rosters on both sides, Spoelstra said, “This has become the normal prep: expect the unexpected.”

For the Heat, guard Kyle Lowry remained sidelined with a strained left hamstring, although he was on the court for pregame shooting. It is the seventh time in the past nine games Lowry has been sidelined by the hamstring.

Four Heat players had been listed as questionable earlier Tuesday, but then were cleared to play: Caleb Martin (ankle sprain), Max Strus (hamstring strain), P.J. Tucker (calf strain) and Gabe Vincent (hamstring strain).

Earlier, Spoelstra said at the morning shootaround that his team was in for an extended challenge, stressing the littlest things could make the biggest difference.

“They’re big, those moments in between, the plays in between, ball in the air, ball on the floor,” he said. “I’m sure they’re saying the same thing. You have two teams that take pride in that, so it should be very competitive in between the lines.

“And both teams do it in a way that’s not over the top. It’s just about doing whatever it takes to get the win.”

Heat guard Tyler Herro said he appreciated it was time to dig in defensively.

“I think both teams, everybody knows how well we are on that side of the ball,” he said. “I think whoever can get the relief buckets in transition, a couple of buckets here or there, that aren’t from set plays and things like that, I think whoever can get those in-between possessions, I think will have an advantage throughout the series.”

All without forgoing any defensive elements.

“I mean, that’s what we are, since I got here three years ago,” he said. “We’ve always been old-school that way. We’re willing to score 120, but we also can play a game in the 90s.”

Heat center Bam Adebayo said the team was savoring, but not caught up in, the moment.

“We’re just enjoying our moment,” he said. “For the most part, we’re keeping our head down, keeping the main thing the main thing.”

The series not only is a rematch of the teams’ 2020 East finals that the Heat won 4-2, but also a reunion for Adebayo with USA Basketball gold-medal Olympic teammate Jayson Tatum.

“Since I’m playing against him, I know his tendencies,” Adebayo said. “The Olympic team is totally different. But just knowing his tendencies, that’s basically it.”

For all the backstories, Herro said what can’t be lost is the significance of the moment.

“This is what you want as a competitor,” he said. “As a basketball player growing up this is everything you could ever ask for, to be in a game like that.”

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