There are certain trends in land ownership that are
affecting you today, and there are more to come over the next 20 years. How will
these trends impact your farming operation?
Currently, 42 percent of farmland in the U.S. is rented or
leased. But the more interesting statistic is the fact that in the next 20
years, 60 percent of U.S. farmland, or about 108 million acres, is expected to
Now, you might be thinking: How am I going to get my hands
on some of that land? Or I have my hands on some of that land today, but will I
Consider this: Each landlord you have a relationship with is
different, and what is needed to maintain a good working relationship with each
one is different.
We know that 65 percent of landlords are over 60 years old.
Have you considered what your landlords need from you in the
I know of one young farmer who farms 2000 acres and has
never lost a piece of ground. His philosophy is to treat farm landlords like
Because they’re close by, he plows their snow, has helped
build a wheelchair ramp and installed a window air conditioner. He says keeping
an eye on elderly landlords has won him the favor of their children, as
You might have a landlord who lives within 25 miles of the
rented acreage. That accounts for about half of the landlords out there.
They might be able to visit their farm ground more often, to
drive out and see if the ditches are clean and check on what you’ve been doing.
This is to your advantage if you keep things neat.
The other half would live further than 25 miles from the
ground. Generally, with these landlords, it’s even further than that — more like
500 or 1000 miles away. That distance will affect your relationship with them
and affects how you communicate.
It is key to lay a solid foundation for good communication
with each of your farm landlords. Reach out to every one of them on a regular
Find out how often they’d like to be communicated with and
the medium they prefer. Phone calls, websites, newsletters and personal visits
are places to start.
Think about your rented ground. Will some of that land be
going through a transition soon?
Here’s a situation where a transition may take place
shortly. One of our clients farms about 4,000 acres. Nine hundred acres are
rented from a very elderly landlord who lives quite a distance from the farmer.
We asked the farmer if he knew the landlord’s children or
what his succession plan was going to be. He said he didn’t know, but he thought
his landlord might have a son living in a city.
Then he realized that he didn’t know if he’d get to keep
farming that land which amounted to almost a quarter of his acres.
You can choose to be proactive about the transition process
with your landlords. As your relationship with them grows, you can start to talk
about these topics.
What do they plan to do with the land in the future? Do they
have sons and daughters who will inherit the land? What’s your plan to relate to
the next generation?
One way to strengthen your relationship with your landlords
is to send them a survey. Ask them: On a scale of one to five, how am I doing in
Sometimes we’re afraid to ask because we fear the answers.
But simply by doing this, you’ve set yourself apart.
Your landlords will see that you value their opinions. That
opens the door for continued communication about the future of the land.
There’s power in recording and sharing what we’re doing with
others — they feel like they’re included. You could record video of you planting
and harvesting and share that with your landlords.
One farmer shares his yield maps with his elderly landlord
who used to farm and now is in a nursing home. He visits him, and they discuss
the yields together. Think about what it means to the landlord to be included
The key to good communication and relationships with your
landlords is to think about what you really want for the relationship and for
the future. Use these strategies to reach out and relate to them.