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The rent race

Competing with big-time renters is a challenge for many young and beginning farmers. Farmers For The Future member Josh Schwartz asks the network for advice on the topic.

“I farm 50 acres of crops and 50 acres of hay. From fertilizer to compaction, I try to do it right. So how do I get more ground? We have more than a few big farmers in the area, and it seems like they get all the ground. I pay as much as they pay or close to it. I am just looking for some ideas of what to do, because I don't want to step on people's toes by taking their ground,” he says.

Within a matter of hours, Schwartz had plenty of responses.

“You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs,” says Jeremy Gerow. “You just go for whatever opportunities are out there. Don't turn something down because of how far away it is or what your neighbor might think. Most of the time they would have grabbed at any chance. How do you think they got to be bigger? By sitting back?”

“I agree with Jeremy about taking opportunities. But I think there is a difference between an opportunity and trying to take ground,” says Jason. “I would never cold-call a neighbor's landlord and run the rent up a few bucks just to take ground. Most of the people I see doing that are just a flash in the pan – here one day and broke the next. I want a relationship with my landlord that is fair for both of us.”

“I agree with Jeremy,” says Aaron Braunschweig. “Farming is a business. That doesn't mean you can't have relationships with people, but toes will get stepped on. It's just part of farming.”

“I ran into the same problems, as there are a lot of what I call BTRs (big-time renters) in my area,” says Craig Bolte. “I eventually decided to just pursue purchasing more land instead, and I've been very happy with the results.”

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