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Does Your Landlord Listen? Do You Listen to Your Landlord?

When it comes to decision making for the future of farmland, it’s crucial for both landlords and tenants to be on the same page. Land rental relationships vary distinctly, however, many face the same challenge of voicing new ideas and concerns on the farm.

Farmers Mike Helland and Danny Harrison, along with landlords Gary Guthrie and Lee Tesdell, addressed these concerns with area farmers and landowners at a recent Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference. they also discussed the ways they overcame them.

“I worked overseas and saw some very erodible land in Bolivia and El Salvador, so I began making some decisions as far as trying to move to something more sustainable for the farmland here in Iowa,” says Guthrie. “I asked my tenant, Danny Harrison, to move to no-till, and he was willing to do so.”

Not long after Harrison had moved into using no-till practices, Harrison began incorporating cover crops aerially. Although it was a consensual agreement for both Guthrie and Harrison, the two gave other tips and solutions for landowners and tenants to come to a consensus for incorporating conservation practices.

Have an open relationship

Creating and maintaining a relationship with one another will also improve the flow of ideas to bring to the farming operation.

“I will admit Danny has taken more risks as far as mowing hills and dealing with other things,” says Guthrie, “but it also starts a conversation here that whenever there aren’t any more cost-share dollars, I’m willing to pick up part of the costs of putting in cover crops.”

Guthrie states that having a solid relationship requires some give and take. As a landowner, he is willing to take more costs as it is an investment for the future of his farm.

Know your landlord

Mike Helland, tenant for Lee Tesdell, also rents ground from numerous surrounding neighbors. Knowing how much your landlord wants to be involvee can help develop that open relationship.

“I have landlords like Lee who are active in the decision making and creation of ideas. Then I have older lady landlords who just want to know how your kids are, and that’s OK, too,” says Helland. “No matter how much they want to be involved, have some type of relationship with them.”

Allow Everyone to See the Whole Picture

Is your landlord interested in incorporating more conservation practices? Is your tenant thinking of adding cover crops? Sometimes one person can see the benefits to these practices before the other sees the opportunities.

“Every situation is different when it comes to understanding why someone might be interested in installing conservation on farmland,” says Harrison. “You have to have those conversations explaining the benefits you see and the opportunities your landlord can have if you want to install these practices.”

Future Generations

Helland has been farming no-till beans for over 20 years, and he does strictly no-till on his landlord’s land. He firmly believes in leaving the land in better shape for the next generation.

“When it comes to landlords, I believe soil health is something you should be excited about because that is the legacy for your children and grandchildren,” said Helland.


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