If you’ve been following the pages of Farm Futures and stories here online, you can’t help notice how much attention we have been paying to fixed costs like land and machinery. Those are tough costs to reduce, but persistent lower grain prices mean they can’t be ignored, especially for 2016. Expected tight margins may bring financial stress to row crop farms, and along with that stress, opportunities for growth, provided your financial situation is solid.
If you’re lucky enough to be in that boat, create a game plan to attract new acres. Start by creating a section in your farm’s database for potential landlords. Make notes on your relationship status with owners of land who would make a good fit for your business.
Having said that, I believe it’s best to avoid aggressive behavior and attempts to outbid current tenants. Instead, focus on your differentiation — what makes your farm and business approach unique in the community.
“Word of mouth is potentially the greatest marketing tool you have,” says Water Street Solution’s Lance Burditt. “Your reputation is one of your biggest selling points. If you know prospective landlords who are picky about keeping fence lines clean, and you are good at that, the prospective owner will get wind of that and will come to you.”
Even so, you will need a plan and someone on your farm committed to executing that plan. If possible, assign someone to work on growing new landlord relationships. If nearby land has transferred to a younger generation, you may want to have younger managers establish that relationship.
Once you have honed in on a short list of prospective owners, consider adding them to your farm newsletter subscription list, farm Facebook page, or the invite list to your harvest celebration or plot day.
“Have multiple touches,” suggests Burditt. If it’s a multi-person farm operation, maybe everyone has a role in attracting more land, but ultimately someone must be held accountable for the results.
Farming is a business, and you need to be ready to act on growth opportunities. But your reputation as a respected business leader in the community? That’s priceless.