Farmland leasing is an increasingly popular vehicle for land access, especially for beginning farmers. Leasing can be the best available option for farmers to get on the land without significant capital investment. The majority of established farmers lease at least some land, with just as many acting as landlord to other farmers. With a lot at stake, we want to be sure every lease is a “good” one. But, what does that mean?!
At Farm Commons, a good farm- or ranch-land lease is one that maximizes legal resilience. Legal resilience doesn’t come from filling in the blanks on a lease model or template, necessarily. It is created when landowners and farmers, 1) talk through a wide variety of issues particular to their arrangement, and 2) write down the details of their agreement. In short, a “good” farmland lease is one that results from discussion and authentic agreement. Easy to say, but often hard to do. Fortunately, we have several resources to help.
Start with Farmland Leasing Basics, which explores the most common legal issues that can arise and offers tips on how to prevent them. If you’d rather listen and learn, check out our free Podcast Episode Four: Write it Down! Farmland Leases (27min.), which will explores the same issues and solutions with stories from farmers themselves. Wondering how financial and legal obligations are generally divided when it comes to farmland leasing? Our Sharing Responsibilities in a Farmland Lease Basics resource gets you started.
Because a strong lease depends on discussion of a wide variety of issues, we’ve created a Checklist of Questions to Address in Your Farmland Lease. Use this checklist to make sure you’re catching all the important issues whether you are the land owner or the tenant. For those farmers ready to dig deep into farmland leasing, and all of its legal problems and solutions, we have a tutorial for you! Watch or listen to our Farmland Leases Built to Last: Content and Legal Context (2hrs.).
Of course, we need to make sure our lease agreement gets written down. Many folks turn to models and templates to help that process. At Farm Commons we emphasize the planning and conversation more than the template, but we do have a model for adaptation. Browse our Long-Term Agroforestry Lease Workbook (73pgs.) and check out the model or template farmland lease. It’s fully annotated to help readers understand exactly why the lease is written as it is. The helpful narrative allows farmers and ranchers to understand how they might adapt the language to their unique circumstances. Don’t be turned off by the “agroforestry” title! It’s useful for everyone. For less detailed and un-annotated leases, we often turn to the templates offered by aglease101.com.