Most farmers would say having stronger relationships with their landlords is a good thing. Rental ground is an aspect of farming that can bring some anxiety as – in most cases – it isn’t always guaranteed you’ll have that land to farm next year. Building better landlord relationships can help ease some uncertainty.
You want to make it so your landlord doesn’t want to have anyone else farming their ground except you. Think about what you’re offering them and providing them that no one else can – or is willing to.
Think beyond the amount being paid for cash rent. Paying top dollar for cash rent isn’t a realistic option right now for many farms, but there are other ways you can differentiate what you’re offering landlords.
Know your landlord
Thinking about how you can ‘add value’ to the experience they have with you as a tenant is key to show how your farm is different. Start by making a list of what’s important to each of your landlords. Your list might look very different for each one, depending on who they are.
Then consider ways to offer them something that goes ‘above and beyond’ a rent check – maybe it’s something other farms can’t or wouldn’t provide. That might mean keeping the driveway plowed all winter for an elderly landlord, or visiting them regularly during off-seasons or whenever possible.
For a non-local landlord – maybe they live in a city hours away – you can work to make everything as convenient as possible, while providing some education about what happens on your farm year-round if they’re not familiar with ag. Maybe they have young children who would love to come visit the farm and ride in the equipment with you.
Work your plan
Develop a strategy around how you’ll strengthen current relationships and attract new landlords, if desired. As I’ve written before, you want to become the ‘go-to’ operation – the operation that area landlords are seeking to rent their land to. This means being well-known for having an efficient, professional farm.
Creating and developing your strategy is a year-round job. It’s not something that can just be checked off during winter. You’ll want to give your landlords updates throughout the year – many of them will already be aware of some of what’s going on in the farm environment in general.
When they hear from you about how things are going with their land rather than imagining the situation on their own, that’s good leadership on your part. Tell them the story of your farm and what’s going on with it – otherwise they will make up their own story or seek it from other sources, which probably won’t be as accurate.
As you develop and execute your landlord strategy, be diligent to give them the unique experience your farm can provide while working to tell your farm’s story. Stay current and your landlord will appreciate being in the loop.
If you’d like some help with ideas on lease options to bring your landlords, our ag finance advisors help farmers with tools such as flex rent leases that provide a bonus for the landlord. You might also listen to our weekly Modern Farm Business podcast – covering topics for today’s farm leader such as landlord relations.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.