Below you will find links to some of the best resources we've found around important topics related to land connections for farmers and farmland owners. Because farmer-landowner arrangements are complex and can be long-term commitments, we encourage you to do your homework advance. If you find other resources that have been especially helpful to you, we'd love to hear from you so we can share them with others.
Buying vs Leasing vs Other Options
This in-depth report developed by Openlands and the Liberty Prairie Foundation provides a wealth of insights on all things related to farmland access for farmers, private landowners, and public landowners. The resource section is extremely rich as well.
One of a plethora of resources offered by Land for Good, this is one of the more in-depth guides to the complexities of different land access options. While the American dream, for example, beckons the farmer to want to buy farmland, this isn’t always the best choice from a number of perspectives. Think carefully about what land access method will make the most sense for you at your stage of business development.
This publication includes a comic book format introduction to farmland access options as well as other resources in text section. Nice, simple overview.
Easements & Land Trusts
Whether you are a farmer or a landowner, this two-page reference sheet from the Farmland Information Center provides a clear, high-level overview of what agricultural conservation easements are and their legal and financial implications.
This fact sheet from the Farmland Information Center takes a farmer (or a landowner) to a more detailed level of understanding of what conservation easements include and what to look for without getting lost in minutiae.
Written by the executive director of a land trust in New York and the northeast regional director of American Farmland Trust, this article will give you a better sense of the complex issues and practical dynamics that go into creating a good agricultural easement that will work long into the future.
Non-profit land trusts around the country have preserved 56 million acres of land, including extensive amounts of farmland. This excellent publication by the National Young Farmers Coalition will help a farmer understand what land trusts are and how to work with them.
If you want to see what an actual easement looks like and what it contains, this is a sample from the Town of Dunn, Wisconsin, which has an agricultural conservation easement purchase program. Every easement is different, but most of the core elements are present across different easements.
Farm Succession Planning
This guide from Land for Good is an excellent resource for the children or other kin who may be on the receiving end of a farm success or transfer. The “junior generation” has as much to navigate carefully as do the senior generation if the transfer/succession will be successful in the long term. This is a thorough, clear guide that covers topics from family dynamics to evaluating the actual business viability of the arrangement.
This is the most in-depth guide we’ve seen and is made available through the Farmland Information Center.
If you learn best through videos and want to get an understanding of the broad range of elements connected with farm successions/transfers, then we'd suggest starting with this comprehensive video series developed by the University of Vermont Extension. The videos include case studies as well as dives into estate planning issues as well as transfer tools. Check out the Transferring the Farm Virtual Workshop that you can access through a link in the upper right corner.
Farmlink Programs in the U.S.
The Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska maintains this handy list of farmlink programs around the U.S.
Finances & Farmland Purchasing
This is an excellent overview page that provides a wide variety of helpful farmland-purchase links to many other resources, including those related to government farm loans.
The US federal government wants to help farmers access loans through the Farm Service Agency, but you’d never know it from the complexity of navigating the system. The content and thoughtful design of this superb guidebook from the National Young Farmers Coalition will make the FSA much more understandable.
This eight-page guide to financing and financing sources costs $1.99 to purchase through the National Center for Appropriate Technology. What we like about this resource is its good overview of the diverse options you have for financing and how it encourages you to think about your loanworthiness from the point of view of a bank or finance officer. If you don’t know what your options are, this is a good place to start for basic information.
Finding & Evaluating Farmland
This good guide to all things land access by the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is comprehensive and clear and even includes directions on how to use the Web Soil Survey. Despite being specifically written for New England, it still has alot to offer.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service maintains statistics on a number of ag-related items, including average cash rents. This is the page for accessing Illinois agricultural statistics, which are available at the county level.
The USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service developed this powerful online tool for understanding what soils are present on a particular parcel of land. Definitely worth checking out.
Illinois Farming Law
This is a link to an article by Professor Donald Uchtmann, a professor in the Agricultural Law Group at the University of Illinois. It explains why written leases are best while also describing the legal protections in place for oral leases in Illinois. The article is offered on the massive and comprehensive www.farmdoc.illinois.edu website.
This clear, wide-ranging, and yet concise guide to all aspects of farmland leasing is a useful resource from Land for Good.
This is a 46-page Conservation Lease Toolkit packet from the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project. The packet includes a smorgasbord of resources, including tips on having conservation-focused conversations with your farmer as well as sample leases.
This page is one of the reasons why we’re fans of the American Farmland Trust’s Farmland Information Center website. It’s a page that outlines a variety of topics that farmland owners care about and then offers links to subpages that lead to very helpful resource articles. These topics include improving on-farm conservation, protecting land from development, transferring land to the next generation, and leasing land to agricultural producers.
Before you talk with a farmer, you need to know what your land currently has and in what direction you'd like to go with your land. This excellent worksheet from Americanl Farmland Trust helps you do just that in a clear, comprehensive way. Highly recommended.
Edward Cox at Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center put together this multi-chapter resource on sustainable farm leasing from the landowner’s perspective. This is the most in-depth resource out there we’ve seen for farmland owners looking to incorporate conservation practices in some way.
Leases & Leasing
This workbook, created by Farm Commons (with input from the Savanna Institute), provides an overview of legal considerations for long-term leases involving agroforestry, including ways to account for the value of perennial crops and trees over the course of the lease. The workbook includes a checklist to help the parties understand and negotiate specific terms of their lease as well as a sample long-term lease.
There is no universal formula that will give you the “right” rental rate in every circumstance, but this document from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center does a nice job of clearly explaining different approaches that will help you figure out what makes sense in your situation.
This is just one of the resources offered by Farm Commons, a non-profit dedicated to being a resource for all things legal related to farmers. If you go through these questions carefully and craft a lease to addresses the pertinent ones, you’ll be well on the way to having a good agreement.
This is a concise guide sheet to the essential things you should have in any farm leases produced by Hudson Valley Farm Finder and its partners.
This comprehensive look at pasture rental by the Ohio State University Extension includes options for determining pasture rental rates as well as a template for a rental agreement.
This is the first part of a two-part article by a grazier (Meg Grzeskiewicz) about how to craft a good lease agreement for a sustainable grazing operation. Most leasing information tends to focus on vegetable and grain production operations. But animal farming is, well, a different animal with fencing and other issues that need to be addressed. Good, clear, practical writing. There are easy links to the second part as well.
This is a clear, comprehensive guide by the University of Vermont Extension’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture to all things related to farm leasing rates. It extends the question of pricing beyond just what local rent prices are to things like ownership costs, insurance coverage, taxation, and equipment & infrastructure. Many rental pricing conversations we’ve heard about don’t necessarily get this sophisticated, but it’s good to know all of the factors, whether you are a farmer or landowner.
The resources section at the end of this 42-page document is fairly specific to New Jersey but the other content is quite good and includes some profiles of farmer-landowner leasing arrangements. Learning examples can be very effective.
This 66-minute video includes presentations by staff of Land for Good on leasing basics, Conservation Law Foundation on when to get legal help and what to expect and the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project on overlooked factors that can make or break a lease arrangement.
This bestselling book provides valuable insights for how to develop a mutually acceptable, relationship-building agreement in every sort of conflict. Written by William Ury, Roger Fisher, and Bruce Patton, the book’s theories and tactics are based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project. This is very clearly written and offers approaches that could be of great value in farmland lease negotiations and many other situations.
If you’re serious about negotiating, this is an excellent book by a Harvard professor (Deepak Malhotra) with many fascinating political and business negotiations examples. Here’s a 46-minute video in which Malhotra shares some of the core principles of savvy negotiating. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsaxtLqh4h0
Relationships & Communication
This article appeared in On Pasture, an excellent online resource on sustainable grazing, and highlights the importance of communication in determining whether or not a lease arrangement is successful for both the farmer and landowner. It has some useful tips on good communication approaches through all phases of a relationship with a landowner.
While this fact sheet from The Ohio State University has a rather academic title, it provides a nice overview of what it takes to have a good landowner-farmer relationship over time.
Greg Judy has a built a very successful, rotational grazing business model on leasing land so when he writes about farmer-landowner relationships, it’s worth paying attention. In this piece in On Pasture, Greg shares his lessons about the many proactive measures he takes to build and maintain good relationships with his landowners. He also shares a story of one that didn’t work out - good lessons there, too.
Mimi Arnstein shares her experience farming at the Wellspring Farm Land Cooperative in Marshfield, Vermont. This was written up by Land for Goo, Wellspring Farm, Marshfield Vermont written for Land For Good and has some useful lessons on this alternative approach to land access.
This is an inspiring story of a woman in Ford County, Illinois, who bought her family's 160 acres of farmland and then began to look for ways to improve the soil health of the land. She was able to move forward with her vision and values when she met Will Glazik. Their story is well told in this NRCS profile.
Urban Farmland Access
This concise document by Land for Good and Equity Trust outlines issues and things to think about that are unique to urban farming. A good place to start your research.
This book by Curtis Stone is a comprehensive, well thought-out, well designed publication on urban farming. It has some good tips on how to find and assess land in urban, suburban, and peri-urban areas. He lays out some interesting ideas on the benefits of multi-site farming. Curtis does excellent videos through his YouTube Channel and you should check out his website as well - https://theurbanfarmer.co
A useful overview of the topic by ChangeLab Solutions, although it is mostly focused on publicly owned land in urban areas that could be used by farmer or for community gardens.
It’s not surprising that a 60-year lease would be pretty comprehensive, but while not every aspect of this agreement for farmland in a national park would apply to your situation, there is still much to learn. In particular, you'll want to check out Exhibit D - Lessor’s Sustainable Agriculture Guidelines.