Leasing farmland to a beginning regenerative farmer

Do you have farmland that you would like managed according to your land stewardship goals?

Maybe you:

  • are a farmer hoping to pass on the management of your land
  • are a widow/widower of a farmer
  • inherited a family farm
  • purchased a farm or recreational land that could be farmed, but do not farm yourself
  • bought a primary residence (or second home) with acreage that contains farmable land

Have you considered leasing to a beginning regenerative farmer?

Indeed, there are numerous benefits to landowners who make their land available for regenerative farming, including:

  • retirement or additional income
  • maintaining eligibility for use-value property tax assessment
  • keeping the land from becoming overgrown
  • achieving conservation and stewardship objectives
  • promoting local agriculture
  • providing an important opportunity for a beginning farmer or farm family

With farmland access as the number one hurdle for beginning farmers to get started, you are giving the next generation a leg up.

They’ve got stiff competition for any available farmland—rising land prices, a robust market for farmland for non-farming purposes, and established farmers who are able to finance farmland to expand their operations.

Leasing to a Beginning Farmer FAQs
  1. Where do I find a beginning farmer?
    • Contact FoxRAP ASAP! As a member of the Midwest Farmland Access Hub, we have a network of ag organizations throughout WI and neighboring states to help find a great fit for your land and goals. You can also post your land on a land link-up site.
  2. How much land does a beginning farmer need?
    • This depends on the operation. Market vegetables can be successful on one acre, while raising livestock will need more, again depending on the species of livestock and characteristics of the land. Bottom line: no acreage is too small with the right farmer!
  3. What are some types of farm operations to expect?
    • Ag operations vary from vegetables to dairy to cut flowers or bees. Farmers may specialize on one crop or produce a diversity of crops. The farmer and operation that is right for your land will often depend on your land’s characteristics, including water availability, soil type, and current farming infrastructure.
  4. Do I need a lease? Where do I find one?
    • A lease acts as a roadmap for the landlord-tenant relationship, especially if a dispute arises. Written agreements encourage discussion and understanding between the parties, and any lease must be in writing to be enforceable in court. You can find a farmland lease template from UW extension here.
  5. Do I need insurance?
    • General homeowners insurance does not cover commercial farming activities, so the landowner may need extra coverage or the farming tenant will need their own liability coverage, naming the landowner as an additional party. This can be worked out in the lease agreement.
  6. Can I require the farmer to use regenerative practices?
    • Yes. Conservation plans developed for your land or desired stewardship practices can be incorporated into a lease.
  7. Will I need to provide housing?
    • Housing is not required to lease to a beginning farmer, but it is often very helpful. Housing, especially rentals, can be hard to find and/or afford in certain areas. On-farm housing also reduces transportation challenges and costs. Plus, the closer a farmer is to the farm, the more time they can spend on good stewardship of your land.
  8. How long does a lease last?
    • Many landowners choose annual leases, but because regenerative farming practices take time to develop, a long-term lease is encouraged. Longer leases offer farmers peace of mind, allowing them to invest in the land and their operation. It’s also less work for you if the lease does not need to be renewed annually.
  9. What type of lease should I use? Common lease types include cash payment, share of produce, and in-kind exchange for stewardship activities such as mowing fields, maintaining infrastructure, or other land management.

There’s a lot to think about, but don’t get overwhelmed. Keep in mind the difference you can make for your land, your future, and for a beginning farmer or farm family.

And as always, we are here to help.

Additional Resources

Conservation Leases – Land Stewardship Project

Lease Your Land – American Farmland Trust

A Landowner’s Guide to Leasing Land for Farming – Land for Good

Liability and Insurance in a Farm Lease – Land for Good

Thanks to Land Stewardship Project and Land for Good for providing information for this post.

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