As I continue the previous weeks' focus on landlord relationships (see part I and part II of this series), I was thinking about the new dynamics that arise when your landlord's connection to agriculture isn't direct, but comes through inheriting farmland.
I'm thinking about farmland heirs who didn't grow up on a farm, and maybe their parents didn't grow up on a farm, either! Because of that, their feelings about farmland might be significantly different from how a farmer feels about owned ground. They may have limited experience with agriculture, and that has implications for you as a tenant.
Farmland heirs may not know very much about farm production. They probably aren't aware of the economic state of agriculture at any given moment. They are more likely to live in a city and, as a result, have a more 'transactional' relationship with the ground they own.
All of these differences require a different approach to how you'll communicate and build a relationship with them.
Like I talked about in last week's post, the key is to start with their needs and situation. Consider how they would like to connect with their ground and your farm. What will be most convenient for them? How will you reach out and connect with them?
Here are a few ideas to get started. Share photos of farm operations, and of your family and farm employees. That can be a great way to help them get a more personal understanding of what happens on the farm, and it can help them to feel more involved.
Be sure to include photos of field operations as you care for the land. Pictures give them a sense of what you do as stewards of their land. You could use a combination of a farm website, a newsletter geared for landlords, and social media pages to share photos and updates of what's happening.
Plan regular communication to help them connect with your farm, whether in-person or through a mail or electronic piece. That way, you are educating them about agriculture and making the connection between them and your farm more personal, all at the same time.
Here are a few things to think about as you create a plan to communicate with your landlords. Consider landlords who are aging and may transition land to younger heirs in the near future. Do you know who your landlord's heirs may be? Have you met or talked with them?
Do they know you personally and what your farm does? Do they understand the benefits they gain from owning farm land? Use your answers as the basis for how you and others in your operation will reach out to the next generation and relate to them.
The communication skills you use to build these relationships can make the difference as you work with each of your farm landlords. This winter, seek to learn communication skills to use every day in your operation – and especially as you work with partners like landlords and lenders. I'll be sharing these skills at the Water Street EDGE farm business seminars, along with other speakers including Arlan Suderman, Jolene Brown and Dr. David Kohl.
Get more business ideas for your farm operation in our Smart Series quarterly publication – banker relationships, farm leadership skills, farm meetings and more.
The opinions of Darren Frye are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.