Keep Landlords in the Loop with a Newsletter
Communication is key to the success of any relationship, including between renters and landlords. Farmers rent 353.8 million acres of farmland in the U.S., according to a USDA survey, and 80% of those acres are owned by nonfarming landlords. Nearly 45% of principal landlords have never farmed. Many live out of state, and they may or may not have ever met their renters in person.
If you rent land – whether it’s from an active or a retired farmer, or someone who has never farmed – writing a regular newsletter to your landlord can go a long way to keep the lines of communication open and to give them a positive feeling about your relationship.
Depending on your landlord’s preferences, you can either email the newsletter or print it out and mail it, and you can send issues monthly or quarterly. Also, consider the type of rental agreement you have. Cash-rent landlords, for example, may not require a lot of technical information. If you’re in a crop-share agreement, however, your management decisions impact the landlord’s profitability, so you should include more details.
Be sure to include photos with your newsletter. Show your landlord before-and-after photos of projects like fence building or repairs. Share pictures of crop progress and livestock. If you capture a shot of a beautiful sunset or ominous storm clouds, include it. Include a photo of yourself and your family from time to time.
You don’t need to hire a professional to write and lay out your newsletter. Most word processing software includes newsletter templates that can be easily customized. Do have someone else take a look before sending your newsletter, though. Even the best writers make mistakes, and a second set of eyes can help catch errors.
Elements to Include
Extension program specialists at Iowa State University recommend including the following elements in your farm newsletter.
Contact information. Include your name, mailing and email addresses, cell phone number, and other contact information with each newsletter.
Main content. Share information about your management of the land, including both struggles and successes. Let the landlord get to know you.
New happenings. Share a brief update of what has happened since your last newsletter. Include reports about improvements made on fences, buildings, waterways, and wildlife habitats.
Crop and livestock updates. Tell the landlord how the crop is progressing and provide updates on pasture conditions and livestock development.
Weather. This is especially important if your landlord doesn't live nearby. Write about the weather since your last newsletter and how it has impacted the operation.
Commodity prices. If appropriate to your relationship, discuss commodity prices and trends, and what the futures markets look like. It may be helpful to compare current prices to historical prices to demonstrate how prices can vary over time.
Technology. Even if your landlord has experience in agriculture, he or she may not be aware of all the current technology being used on the farm. Explain what new technology you're using and why.
Upcoming events. Share what's on the horizon – whether it’s planting intentions, field days, or calving season.