I have been considering a story I heard from a colleague about the beginning farmers who are currently renting his crop land. The beginning farmers began to cultivate (pun not intended) a relationship with my colleague for a few years. They would call my colleague, ask if he had any land they could rent without disrupting any current tenants, if he knew of any other landowners looking for a tenant, keeping my colleague up-to-date on their operation and plans, and generally letting my colleague know they were interested should an opportunity ever arise.
The opportunity then came. My colleague was considering renting his land and, as he had in years past, received a phone call from the prospective tenant. This time, my colleague indicated he was interested in renting the land and asked for more details regarding the tenants’ operation, their agriculture and educational background, and ideas for maintaining the environmental integrity of the land. My colleague also discussed the use of the Nebraska Beginning Farmer Tax Credit program and the requirements for both himself and the tenants to qualify.
What have I gleaned from this story from the perspective of a beginning farmer?
- Polite persistence is key. We all know that access to land is the single most difficult barrier for beginning farmers to overcome. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to people in your community, create relationships with landowners, and generally let the word out that you’d like to rent land.
- Don’t expect immediate results. It took the tenants in the above story a few years for their persistence to pay off. But when my colleague was considering renting his land, the first people he thought of were the people who maintained a relationship with him and let him know about their interest in renting his land.
- Have a plan. Don’t just approach a landowner and state you’d like to rent the land. Know what type(s) of crops you wish to grow, your ideas on fertilization and pesticide use, whether you wish to pursue cash rent or share rent, your farming background, and any other pertinent details that demonstrate that renting to you is in the best business interest of the landowner.
- Be aware of any programs that assist beginning farmers. A tax credit is a wonderful tool in your plan. Know about it and discuss it with potential landlords.
What have I gleaned from this story from the perspective of the landowner?
- Be receptive to renting to beginning farmers. Sure, it may be a bit outside your comfort zone to rent to a beginning farmer but it may make business sense as well. Listen to the ideas and keep them in mind.
- Be aware of any programs that assist beginning farmers. Who doesn’t like a tax credit? As a landowner, you may qualify for the Nebraska Beginning Farmer Tax Credit. Calculate the tax credit and consider it in the larger picture of your operation’s financials.
- Have a plan. There may be a time when you can no longer cultivate your own fields. If that time comes, do you have relationships with other farmers who would be interested in renting your land to maintain your income stream? More long-term, if you want a successor to the operation, do you have one? Renting to a beginning farmer may provide you with a mechanism to maintain your operation for another generation.
Ultimately, there are benefits to both beginning farmers and landowners by being persistent and allowing persistence. You never know — you may just find the perfect fit if you persist.