Farmland Lease Success in Lake County

Farmland Lease Success in Lake County
Jordan Blakeslee stands on the farmland he has just leased in Libertyville.  (Photo: Jordan Blakeslee)

Jordan Blakeslee grew up eating fresh, homegrown foods from his family’s gardens. This helped cultivate a lifelong interest in health and nutrition that was rekindled while tending a workplace garden at a post-college job. Since then, he has been determined to learn more about farming and how it fits into his future.

Jordan decided to start small. This would allow him to keep his full-time job in bio-tech while gaining firsthand farming experience. 

“How can I farm in a way that’s commercially viable?” “How much land do I need?” Jordan knew answering these questions would help shed light on his future farming direction.

So Jordan had his farmland search criteria dialed in when he started looking for land.

He would seek to lease roughly one acre or less near to his home and work in central Lake County so that he could (in his words) “cultivate a small hobby farm for personal use with the potential to develop into limited commercial applications.” When he completed his farmer profile on the Northeast Illinois FarmLink website at the beginning of October, a nearby farmland profile immediately stood out.

Jordan emailed the landowner. Just days later they were walking the property together and talking lease terms. The landowner made clear he wanted a farmer that, as Jordan put it, “wouldn't be depending on the space for their livelihood or using too much water.” For Jordan, finding the right size and location were key factors. 

Both parties knew they had found what they were looking for. Soon after his visit, Jordan successfully negotiated and signed a lease with the landowner. He is set for the 2022 growing season.

Gages Lake Road FarmThe lease is for approximately one-third of an acre for $300/year, with potential to expand up to one acre. Included in the lease price is irrigation, barn storage space, and use of some tools and equipment, including a rototiller. This farmland lease opportunity is the perfect testing grounds for Jordan to get his hands into the soil, develop farming techniques, and trial growing and selling food for market.

Another unique detail to this story is that the prior tenant-farmer of the land, Lucinda Smetana, was the one who created the farmland profile on the Northeast Illinois FarmLink website for the farmland owner. Jordan’s first contact was actually with Lucinda, who put him in touch with the landowner.

Lucinda later said to us, “Thanks for making this site available for beginning farmers. Had it existed a few years back, it would have made my own farming journey a lot simpler.”

A couple takeaways stand out from this farmland search story:

1. A narrow search gives focus and confidence.
Jordan had a clear picture of what he was looking for and what he wasn’t he looking for. While a farmland search can often take months, even years, having very specific search criteria gave Jordan confidence that this was the right opportunity very early in his search.

2. Gaining experience is a key step in the farmland finding process.
As Jordan had the foresight to realize, it’s nearly impossible for him to know right now what the right long-term farmland fit would be for him without first exploring farming methods, scales, and viability alongside his current work and life situation. Leasing made more sense in that context.

3. Farmers and landowners helping each other out can be a beautiful thing.
Lucinda played a key role in helping out the former landowner of the land she previously farmed along with a beginning farmer. Seeing this supportive network unfold gives us hope for more farmer-landowner partnerships forming in the future.

Jordan has already planted some garlic on his newly leased farmland and begun planning for the 2022 growing season. When asked about long-term plans he shared, “My next move would be buying a house for my fiancé and me. I just need to figure out how much land needs to be attached to it!”

We look forward to tracking Jordan’s farming and farmland journey as it unfolds. Good luck Jordan!