Note: The approximate time to complete this section is 20-30 minutes. Be sure to enter your email and click "submit" at the bottom to receive your answers. Or click "save and continue" to complete later.

Defining the land and its uses

Getting a practical and legal definition of the land to protect your rights


Questions for the landowner

Once you have a piece of property in mind to lease, it's essential that you get clear on the exact area that is included. Here are some questions to ask the landowner to gain clarity:

  • What is the parcel ID number for the land (to locate the property on the county map system)?
  • Is there any portion of the property that will NOT be included in lease?
  • Do you have a map of the property you are leasing that we can include in the lease?
  • Will you or anyone else be using the property for any reason?

Getting clear about land use

There are endless ways you can use farmland or pastureland, and there are almost as many ways in which that use can be constrained. Before determining whether to enter an agricultural lease, it is critical to know precisely which land uses are allowed or even required ("prescriptions") and which are prohibited ("prohibitions").

When considering a property to lease, you'll want to be sure to balance all the competing prescriptions and prohibitions to find the optimal use for you, the land, and the landowner. You also have to consider what the government has to say about your plans!

The next few exercises will help you and the landowner determine where you have cross-over on intended use and where you might need to determine if there are any external forces that will limit your plans!

What land uses and restrictions are desired?

Check off which of the following you want to apply to the land,. Make notes about the items you need to speak to the landowner about or where you have questions.

Suggestion: Share this list with the landowner and ask them to fill it out too. Then, you can see where you disagree on land use and begin to explore mutually agreeable approaches.

Desired activities or restrictions for environmental protection
Desired certifications or federal programs
Desired activities or restrictions for land management
Desired activities or restrictions for resources

Balancing needs: the land's, your, and the landowner's

For this exercise, consider the activities that will fulfill the needs of the land along with your own needs and the needs you anticipate the landowner might have. For each, check from the options below. Then use the writing space to add other activities or to further explain the ones you selected.

Activities to support the land's needs
Activities to support my needs
Activities to support the landowner's needs

External constraints on desired land uses

Now, let's consider external constraints on your and the landowner's desired land uses.

External constrains on land use that concern me

Having a conversation with the landowner about land use

While it can be challenging and intimidating, having an open and honest conversation with the landowner about land use issues you've identified here can often be an effective approach. You will gain clarity and information to empower you with a choice -- whether that means you successfully persuade the landowner to your view, come up with a creative alternative that meets both your needs, decide to go forth with a compromise, or ultimately decide to walk away.

Here is a hypothetical conversation between a farmer and a landowner that may inspire your preparations for your own conversation.

Hypothetical conversation


Preparing for your conversation with the landowner

For the next exercise, choose at least one land use issue that you've identified in this section that concerns you. Begin to outline how you might discuss this with the landowner using Compassionate Communication.

    (1) Noting what is happening (observation)
      (2) Identifying your underlying feeling
        (3) Stating an underlying need, and
          (4) Articulating a request.
    (1) Making a an observation, (2) identifying the feeling that arises, (3) stating my underlying need/s, (4) articulating a request

    Defining access: Who else has legal rights or interests in the land?

    Leases aren’t absolute, as a tenant you get only a portion of the rights to a piece of land.

    Note: Refer to the Circle of Ownership in Section 2, People

    Investigating existing rights to the land

    In addition to asking the landowner who else has legal rights or interests in the land, it is advisable to engage in some due diligence yourself. The best approach is to visit your county’s office where they record deeds. Depending on the state you are in, these offices are called “Clerk Recorder,” “Register of Deeds, ” “County Recorder,” or something similar. Most offices have online access these days. If you got the Parcel ID from the landowner for the mapping exercise, it will be helpful here, too. You can also search by the Parcel ID, the landowner’s name, and sometimes the address of the land.

    The database at the county record office will show all previous conveyances of the land,. You will want to pay careful attention to any easements, leases, or other ownership claims on the parcel you are wanting to lease.

    Once you have a final lease, you will want to consider recording your lease at the same office so that others will be on notice of your rights to lease the land. Some states require that leases of a certain length be recorded, others do not. Often, you can record a “memorandum of lease” rather than the lease itself so that you can keep the specific terms of the lease private (like how much you are paying for the farmland).

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