Beginning Farmers Find Land

Inside Dakota Ag

It's hard today for beginning farmers to find land to operate. Three young North Dakota producers tell how they are going about it.

Published on: April 26, 2013

How do you find land when you are a beginning farmer?

John Overboe, Kindred, N.D., is looking everywhere. He is talking to relatives, neighbors and friends; running ads in newspapers; and even visiting courthouses to track titles to land.

Overboe has to hustle. He has to compete with large, established farms in the southern Red River Valley for land and he has to deal with urban sprawl from Fargo, N.D.

Overboe has turned one those challenges into an opportunity. He’s met land developers through a tree moving business he started in college and continues to operate today. That has led to opportunities to farm tracts of land that developers purchase for future subdivisions. They often need somebody to farm the land until they start building.

John Overboe fills a planter with corn seed so that he can plant land he rents from a housing developer.
John Overboe fills a planter with corn seed so that he can plant land he rents from a housing developer.

“All of the new acres I am renting this year stem from long-term relationships and friendships built through the tree business,” Overboe says. “It’s all about networking.”

Brothers Richie and Michael Heinrich, Medina, N.D., have another approach. They are renting cropland coming out the Conservation Reserve Program. Richie graduated from North Dakota State University and Michael is senior at NDSU and will graduate in December 2013. Their brother Chris, a freshman at NDSU, works on the family farm in the summer. He too, might like to join the family operation someday.

“We are lucky to have landowners in our community who wanted to rent to local beginning farmers,” Richie says. They used the Transition Incentive Program to help make it more attractive for landowners to rent to them. TIP, a federal program, provides landowners two more years of CRP payment if they rent land coming out of CRP to qualified beginning producers. The program was part of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Michael (front) and Richie Heinrich check soybeans on land that they rented when it came out of CRP. The landowners got two extra years of payments because they rented to beginning farmers.
Michael (front) and Richie Heinrich check soybeans on land that they rented when it came out of CRP. The landowners got two extra years of payments because they rented to beginning farmers.

Richie and Michael also started a bred heifer business with their father, Gene, and helped him expand a custom beef feedlot. They background calves. The brothers are also custom grazing U.S. Fish and Wildlife land. The agency is to see if it can improve waterfowl nesting habitat on the Chase Wildlife Refuge by grazing grasslands with cows.

For more strategies on getting started from beginning farmers in South Dakota, see the April edition of Dakota Farmer. You can find the story online, too, at our “Online magazine.”