What questions do you ask when meeting with a new farm renter?
Last week I shared with you a conversation I had with a landowner. I was intrigued by his question when he asked, “What is your farming philosophy?” After thinking more about this question, it has led me to what other questions every landowner should ask their new or existing tenant. Here are a few more questions that would help a landlord determine what find of farmer you are working with.
What does soil health look like to you?
Today, every end user of products a farmer can produce wants to say they are their product is grown or raised in a sustainable manner. In some cases, this is correct but in others, it is only lip service. Because a few farmers are carrying the torch for the rest of the group. In the same way, soil health can mean many things to many people. Asking the farmer what soil health looks like to them will open the door to a deeper conversation. The conversation then can move on to what practices they are using to promote soil health. Promoting soil health is not a quick and easy goal. So working with the right farmer has to be a relationship that will be lasting. Many farmers would prefer a long-term lease just because of this time commitment to build soil.
Who is on you management team?
This question allows the farmer to share who they surround themselves with. Who sits down at the table and brings them leadership as well as how these folks improve the farmer’s business and fill in gaps in their skill set. If the farmer is honest with themselves, there may be five or six strategically positioned people who complete their team. If they don’t have this team in place, I would wonder if they are equipped to thrive in this ever-changing farming environment. So don’t be afraid as the landowner to seek this information. Then ask if you can talk to a few of their team members.
How are you using technology today?
The third question is “How are you using technology today to improve your farming management?” There is no shortage of technology available at the farmers’ fingertips. Some technology is very valuable in helping make decisions and improve yields. Other technology may or may not be providing what is necessary to help the farmer improve their production and production efficiency. What is valuable to one farmer may not be to another. But allow them to share why they use it and how it makes them a better manager.
Do you have a succession plan?
The final question I think you as the landlord should ask is, “Do you have a succession plan?” If you are planning a long-term lease, make sure the farmer renting your land has a plan if something tragic happens. This is a partnership in many ways, so finding out early what kind of plan they have is a very good idea. At the same time, sharing with the farmer your long-term plan is just as courteous. At the end of the day, you are a team and this type of communication has to be an ongoing part of the relationship. If it is hard to ask these types of question now, it is going to be much more difficult when you have to have the hard conversations. Get the relationship started off right; it will make a huge impact years into it.