As with any relationship, you must invest time and effort to build a rapport with your landlord. When discussing price, consider your landlord’s point of view and base the conversation around facts, says Chris Barron, director of operations and president of Carson and Barron Farms Inc., in Rowley, Iowa, and a financial consultant for Ag View Solutions. Follow these strategies to strengthen landlord relationships.
1. Talk often.
Don’t limit your conversations to harvesttime just because that’s when most leases annually renew, Barron says. Additionally, if you are asking for a lower rental rate, don’t spring that discussion on your landlord close to your lease renewal.
“With communication, more is better,” he says. “Think about your different landowners. You probably have the best relationship with the ones you communicate with the most.” Make a list of the landowners you haven’t visited or talked to in a while, and make it a priority to reconnect with them.
2. Share your market, yield and profit outlook.
When you meet with your landlord, be transparent about your operation, Barron says. Talk through the current farm economy, market prices and your production expectations. “It’s OK to be positive and have a good outlook,” he says. “That doesn’t mean rent will go higher if you have a positive outlook.”
Most landowners don’t understand why they should lower cash rent when inflation is accelerating in urban areas. “This is why farmers need to know their cost structure and be willing to discuss that with landlords,” says Alejandro Plastina, assistant professor of economics and Extension economist at Iowa State University.
3. Treat your landlord as a business partner.
“Most producers approach lease negotiation with a lawyer or a banker differently than with the lady down the road,” says Mykel Taylor, ag economist at Kansas State University. “There needs to be a different approach, a different strategy.” Regardless, Taylor says be professional and view them as business partners.
Your dress and physical appearance are major components to your professionalism, says Mark Gannon, owner of Gannon Real Estate and Consulting in Ames, Iowa. Make sure your written and verbal correspondence is respectful and proper.
4. Give a gift.
A kind gesture speaks volumes, Barron says. Give your landlord a gift, such as sweet corn, a farm hat or another token of appreciation. Those gifts combined with fixing fence or snow plowing their driveway in the winter are greatly appreciated.
Beyond those nice services, share updates when you apply fertilizer, address weed issues or harvest in the fall. If you have a drone, make a video of your landlord’s land and show it to them. Photos or videos will let your landowner know you are taking good care of their farm, Plastina adds.
5. Ask two important questions.
At the end of every conversation with your landlord, Barron suggests asking these questions: Is there anything changing in your world? What can I do better?
Tenants can be dealt a huge blow if a landlord decides to sell land or is shopping around for a new tenant, Barron notes.
“Be proactive,” he says. “Tell your landlord that it’s important you all have a good working relationship.”