Communication is a foundational pillar in the business world, no matter the industry. This includes farming, specifically when a landowner has a tenant farmer working and producing from their land.
Since both the landowner and tenant want to see farms that perform well, communication between the two parties is essential. However, let’s be honest: the back-and-forth flow of information many times sounds like a good idea, but it is harder to actually put into practice.
According to a report from the University of Missouri, a top complaint from landowners is that their tenants does not communicate with them. This is a missed opportunity, one that in fact represents a potential competitive advantage.
This is a complaint heard at Iowa State University and Extension, too. Many farmland owners simply do not know what is going on at their farms.
If you are looking to improve communication between landowner and tenant, then here is some advice on how farmland owners can communicate better with their tenant farmers.
Much of Iowa’s farm land is leased
Seventy percent of the farm land in some Iowa counties is leased to tenant farmers. This is actually a trend throughout farming.
Some landowners may have farmed in the past and have since retired, while others have never farmed before and simply came to own the land, either through an inheritance or an investment.
Either way, farm landowners want to know what is happening on their properties. A good tenant keeps the owners in the loop.
Make better communication a top priority
Better communication is better business – again, no matter the industry. Both landowners and tenants should make addressing and solving any and all miscommunication issues one of their top priorities.
Luckily, as Parman R. Greene, an Ag Business Management Specialist writes in a report for the University of Missouri, there are solutions to this problem that can be easily implemented.
Talk more frequently
The most straightforward solution to improving communication with landowners a tenant can take is to simply speak more often with them.
This can be done by visiting with the landowner in person, or even by calling them and having a conversation over the phone. Either way, make sure these conversations about what is going on at the farm, what progress is being made, how problems are being handled, etc. is happening regularly.
Have you tried a newsletter?
For those tenants who may not feel comfortable with the personal touch of an in-person visit or don’t want to seem too overbearing with a phone call, Greene suggests creating and sending out a seasonal or quarterly newsletter to landowners. This is specifically useful for tenants who have to communicate with more than one landowner.
The newsletter should inform the landowner of:
- What has happened since the last newsletter
- Crop progress and condition
- Soil fertility information
- Weather updates
- New equipment and technology in use at or purchased for the farm
- Any upcoming activities and events.
Greene also recommends including some information about personal and family activities. This helps the landowner feel more included and part of the operation on the farm. It also alleviates that top complaint landowners shared with the University of Missouri – that feeling of being taken for granted.
Invite landowners to a field day
Rather than go to the landowners to share farm updates, Greene recommends holding a field day on the farm and inviting landowners to attend. Much like the newsletter, this can be used to show new equipment and technology, introducing landowners to others who help directly or associates or consultants with farming.
These field days could also be used to impress upon the landowners why a tenant needs certain associates, such as service and input representatives.
Finally, this field day is a good reason to tidy up the entire farm and show the landowner the whole operation is in good hands.
Create and share a farmland lease annual report
Writing for ISU Extension, Melissa O’Rourke argues that many farmland owners who lease their land have a strong desire to know about what is happening on their farms and may want to learn more about farming in general, too.
O’Rourke recommends creating and sharing a farmland lease annual report with landowners to create better communication between the two. The report can go into detail on information about crops, rental agreements and general topics that the tenant believes the landowner should have knowledge of about the farm.
A good report would serve to inform landowners of how their land is being farmed and educate – if the landowner does not have much knowledge of farming – as to why those decisions were made.
The other beauty of a regular annual report is that it creates documentation from year to year and can be referenced by either the tenant or landowner whenever needed.
There is some balance here, though, that both tenants and landowners should understand, O’Rourke advises. That is the fact that it’s OK for tenants to not want to publish and share proprietary business information in hopes of it not being shared with outside parties. However, she includes, landowners do have a right to know certain aspects of what is happening on their properties.
O’Rourke recommends the tenant and landowner discuss with each other and come to a mutual agreement on what type of information does and does not belong in the reports.
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Sam Harper, a licensed real estate broker in Iowa, specializes in land management, crop consulting and real estate services. He has been working in northwest Iowa for more than 19 years. This experience and deep knowledge, combined with hours spent on farms and in fields, helps him gain a complete understanding of your farm and real estate needs.
That experience helps Sam carryout the Advantage and Realty Land Management mission: To provide excellent service and build lasting relationships.
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