Farm incubator programs are sprouting up around the country as an innovative way to support beginning farmers. These programs typically involve leasing farmland to farmers in the incubator program, which means that multiple farmers will be leasing the same land. This can stir up some legal issues not found in an ordinary farm leasing situation. The same goes for subletting- farmers sometimes find they want to take a year off or use excess space, facilities, and resources to support other producers. Subletting can be a great solution.

In both of these instances, it’s important to research any restrictions and responsibilities associated with the land in question to understand the potential risks that may arise when bringing more farmers onto the land, particularly those wanting to do more than agricultural production (e.g. tours, events, workshops). Our Basics of Due Diligence on an Agricultural Parcel will help you begin your research. If you’re particularly curious about what the zoning code has to say about your incubator farm or subletting plans and would like guidance on (a) how to research your zoning code and (b) how to move forward concerning a zoning code challenge, read Strategies for Navigating Zoning Codes and Challenges. For an interactive learning experience on your own schedule, take our self-paced course Asking Important Questions About an Agricultural Parcel. This self-paced course helps producers identify the costs, responsibilities, and opportunities associated with a parcel of agricultural land.

Otherwise, our Incubator Farm Lease Toolbox (47pgs.) provides you with legal tools to build a strong incubator farm program. It includes a checklist of questions to ask when drafting an incubator farm lease, a model lease, as well as guidance for creating equipment and animal husbandry manuals. The same needs apply to subletting- the questions, model, and equipment/husbandry manuals are important elements to ensure the land-owning farmer and subletting farmer are on the same page.

With these resources, you’ll make sure problems are prevented, saving your farm business and your relationships in the process.