An aspect of your farm business that you need to be thinking about all year round – but in particular, at this time of year – are your landlord relationships.
Many of us know and understand that rental ground can be fragile. There’s quite a bit less control when it comes to what’s going to happen with it in the future. Particularly if you rent a large percentage of your farmed ground, this can make it seem even tougher to make forward-looking plans – but it can be done.
Being proactive about relationships with current landlords is a good way to help manage the uncertainty that comes with rental ground. Taking the time to build and develop a strong working relationship with them can be helpful in all aspects, but particularly as it comes to any negotiations that happen from time to time.
One way to think about this is to consider how, and how well, you’re leading your landlords. Bringing leadership to your relationship with them can be a way to add value. You need to be keeping them up to date with what’s happening in your operation – with what the situation looks like right now.
Harvest can be a good time to do this as you’re getting a clearer picture of how your year is going to end up. Bringing leadership means giving landlords a clear picture and idea of what’s been going on in your operation – giving them a sense of the current story. Work to build their understanding of your farm’s current situation and what the situation in farming looks like right now.
Depending on the landlord’s background and their current circumstances, they may need more or less explanation from you in some of those areas. Ask them what questions they have for you. Be transparent with them and share what you’ve done and continue to do to work toward a successful year.
These harvest conversations are the time to build a stronger relationship. Get clear on what your landlord’s concerns and worries are – ask them. Ask what you can do to be a better tenant. Be curious about them and their life in general, and remember or record what you learn.
Creating the future
While these talks are not the time for negotiation to come into play, they can ‘set the stage’ for future discussions. Later on, the two of you can focus on creating an arrangement that works for both of you.
Know who your landlord is and what’s important to them. Provide them with an understanding of the current realities of your operation. Doing this can help set a good foundation for future discussions – creating a better chance of reaching a solution that’s best for both of you.
Another way to bring leadership to your relationship with your landlord is to bring in new tools or ideas for how you might approach your lease together. Our advisors have experience helping farmer clients plan for meetings with landlords, including how to introduce various tools such as flex rent leases that include some form of bonus for the landlord.
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.