Why do landowners need a peer group to become better land managers?
We all have been involved with a community for most of our lives. For many of us, this a family who loves and cares for us. For others community is a group of friends or people who by chance you have spent time with and have developed a connection. I think we can all agree that we as people need community and the relationship of others. It is part of who we are and building these relationships aren’t always easy. In fact, they take a lot of work.
I was reading an article from Inc.com titled 5 Benefits of Community for Entrepreneurs. Since starting Bird Dog, one realization I have had is that this is a lonely road. But I am not alone. Like others who are in the middle of starting or growing a business, the highs and lows of business happen frequently and somedays all in the same hour. So with the rollercoaster of thoughts and feelings, it is important to surround yourself with those who are experiencing similar stages in life and business. But I also think it is equally important to surround yourself with someone who has been through it and seen it through to the other side.
So as a landowner, why should you need community when owning and managing your farmland? Here are the 5 benefits of community for every landowner. I stole the main points from the article because they work really well.
Learning from each other’s mistakes:
If you are a landowner, there is a good chance that your farmland is a very small part of your everyday thoughts and duties. It would also be easy to say that many landowners are interacting and working with the farmers they are renting to, the way they have for many years. So how do you know if you are doing what is best with that tenant and the land they are farming? How do you know if you are making mistakes? For you who have not gotten paid the rent that was due, you may see these mistakes after the fact. But for others, it is business as usual. Being involved in a community helps you understand the lease agreement you have with the farmer. Then you can compare it to others who are in the same business. As you share your situation with others, mistakes will be revealed and this could be beneficial to not just you but to others as well.
Exchanging tips of the trade:
For most landowners, there isn’t a manual for owning farmland. There is some great information out there to help guide landowners in making wise decisions, but there is also no one-size-fits-all relationship. The lease agreement that works for one may not be suitable for another. The farming practices of one farmer may be totally different for someone else. It isn’t until you get into the details of each situation that you can then apply the nuggets of information that you pick up. But how will you exchange this information if you are not involved with a group of peers? Have you thought about a variable cash lease? If you haven’t heard of this, there is a good chance someone in the group has.
Passing on knowledge:
In the age of abundant information at your fingertips, passing on knowledge doesn’t seem very valuable. But it is. There is a lot of good quality information in many different forms today. But even though information is accessible, reliable information may be harder to come by. In passing along information from one landowner to another, you don’t just pass along information but experience. It is this experience people relate to.
In my years of working with farmers, I can share with them something that will change their operation. It can be met with optimism or in many cases slower adoption is more common. Why? Because I don’t farm. But one of their farming peers can share the exact same thing, and it is accepted with open arms. It is this experience and the ability to relate to the other person that allows knowledge to be freely passed.
Making connections happens in several different ways. When you are in a community, you make connections with those in the group. The other valuable connections are those that you are introduced to by your peers in the group. Today this is called networking. I know networking can be very intimidating. When a connection is made because a friend in your group thought enough to share you and your story with someone of interest, that is priceless. And it works both ways.
Learning new business skills:
We are all born with talents and abilities that are unique to us. But many other skills are learned as we are challenged to pursue different things. As a landowner, you may be able to build valuable relationships with your tenants but understanding a lease agreement is not your forte. It takes some education and practice to develop a skill set that is not in your comfort zone. Having a group of peers can help you learn new business skills that will be valuable throughout your life.
One example of a successful peer group is Women 4 the Land. Non-operator women landowners are a geographically diverse group of people who, unlike their farm operator counterparts, are removed from the farm or forestland itself, both physically and in terms of operational involvement. These women may or may not have a previous connection with their land. They are not usually consumers of traditional ag media products (magazines, farm radio, etc.) so reaching them with information that can help them make better land-use decisions is challenging.
Learning circles are a great way for these women to connect with other women like them – those who own or co-own land outside the city and who care about land stewardship. It is so important for these women to understand that whether they manage their farm themselves or rent it out to others, conservation and particularly soil health practices like no-till, cover crops, nutrient management, and crop rotations are the best investment they can make in keeping their land productive and sustainable long-term.
We’re calling these learning circles Conservation Conversations because participants are not lectured to, they are engaged in a conversation about their resource needs, the benefits of conservation and the types of assistance available – all in a women-only setting and at a time convenient for them.
As a landowner you are a member of an exclusive and very small group. Connecting with other landowners and building relationships with a group of peers can prove very beneficial. But you have to get started. If I can help you connect with a peer group in your area, please let me know. I would be happy to help.