Land Transitions: Are You Ready?

Finance First

Be proactive with your landlords about the land transition process

Published on: February 26, 2013

In last week's post I talked about some of the things that are going on right now with ownership of farm ground. I shared some ways that you can proactively reach out to your landlords. Here are a few more ideas on how you can foster good communication and relationships with your landlords – and think about the future of your rental ground.

Statistics tell us that 60% of U.S. farmland, or about 108 million acres, is going to change hands in the next 20 years. 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 1 to 5 – how am I doing in these areas? 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 more 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 is now in a nursing home. He visits him and they discuss the yields together. Think about what it means to the landlord to be included like that.

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.