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How to Write a Letter/Resume For Leasing Land

By   /  March 19, 2018  /  1 Comment

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LeasingSeriesFrom August of 2014, this article is part of a whole collection on land leasing ins and outs. To see all in the series, just click on the graphic to the right.

There is no magic recipe that will make a prospective landlord say, “Yeah! I’ll lease my land to you!”  But knowing what a landlord is looking for and how to show him/her that you’ve got what they want can improve your chances. These tips come to us from Iowa’s Beginning Farmer Center, and though they are geared to a beginning farmer, even a seasoned pro can use them.

Step 1:  Understand What a Landlord Wants

The table below shows that the thing landlords look for most is a “good farmer.” They defined a good farmer as someone using good practices, who controls weeds, completes tasks in a timely way, has good equipment, and a good reputation.  A good farmer takes care of the land with practices that conserve soil and water.  In fact, conservation practices are so important, that they also show up separately as a reason for choosing a renter. Not surprisingly, “Honesty” is also very high on the list.  Landlords said they wanted someone they could trust, who communicated well, respected their wishes, and who was easy to work with. Of course, since this is a business transaction, financial stability is important to landlords. They want to know that the rent will be paid.

What A Farm Landlord Wants

Step 2:  Show Landlords You’ve Got What They Want

This is just like applying for a job. You can use a letter or a resume to describe the things you have to offer. Either way, writing these things down helps you get your thoughts together, organize them, and then present them in a professional way. They can be especially  helpful if you feel a little nervous when it comes to telling folks about all your finer qualities. When they’re on paper, it’s almost as if someone else is blowing your horn instead of just you. As you write, keep in mind the list of the things that your landlord is looking for. You can even use some of the words and phrases from the paragraph above to describe yourself:

“I am a conservation-minded farmer focused on protecting and improving soil and water quality, while providing a healthy product and a financially stable home for my family. I pride myself on being honest, and work hard to have good relationships and communication with the people I work for and with.”

A farmer/rancher resume or letter is geared toward your audience: the landlord you’re hoping to lease from.  Here are some suggestions for doing that:

Contact Information

Your name, address, phone number and email address should be the very first thing the reader sees at the top of the resume or the top of the letter.

Management Objectives/Mission

This is a statement in a couple of sentences that tells what you’re trying to accomplish.  If you’ve been doing some business planning, you could include your mission statement here. I think that Grass Whisperer Troy Bishopp has a great statement:

“We strive for a stress-free life. We want our topsoil covered by diverse pastures harvested by animals, thus recycling solar energy and activating biological life to provide a sustainable profit. We want to regenerate our community with local food, create a savannah for wildlife, and create a place for the next generation to thrive.”

Education  

Do you have formal education in agriculture? Include that here. If your education in agriculture comes from personal experience, describe that instead. Or if you’ve got some of both, share that.

“I am a lifelong learner who has studied agriculture from (the back of a horse/ the seat of a 4 wheeler or tractor) for the last __ years. In addition to learning from the land, and the animals I manage, I participate in workshops and read journals and books so I can keep up with advances and improve my management skills.”

“I learned about grazing management following in my parents’ footsteps, building fence, moving cows, bucking bales, and hauling irrigation pipe. I’ve added to this background with a degree in _______ from _________, and by studying with extension, NRCS and conservation district staff, to ensure that my management is the best it can be.”

Experience:

Do you already manage acreage? Share that. Add information about your successes such as improvements in yields or stocking per acre.  What you’re trying to do here is share information that will help your reader see you as good at your job, or someone with potential to be good at farming.

Advanced Training, Certifications, Licenses

If you’ve attended special workshops or training, and/or have certifications and licenses list them here. Did you attend a stockmanship workshop? Do you have an applicator’s license for herbicides, and my favorite, have you taught your livestock to eat weeds?

Risk Management Strategies

Remember, the landlord wants to know that you’ll be able to pay the bills.  So describing what you’re doing to minimize losses is a good thing. Here’s an example:

“I am actively involved in a University of Missouri extension marketing club which allows me to hone my marketing skills. I subscribe to DTN AgDayta which allows for up-to-date price quotes and marketing recommendations.”

Insurance

If you have insurance already, share that information. If not, you can skip this section or note that you’ll be acquiring it.

Organizations:

Being a member of an organization can demonstrate your commitment to your community and your vocation. So tell your prospective landlord about them.

You can mail the letter, or you can set up an appointment and deliver it in person.

References

The typical phrase here is “Available upon request.”  You can have the list with you when you visit the farmer, or be ready to send them if asked.

Polish it Until It Shines

Remember, this is your best foot forward.  It should be grammatically correct and everything needs to be spelled correctly.  My rule of thumb when I’m done with something like this is that I can look at it and say, “Hey! This looks like something a grown up did.” Not sure you’ve got it right? Take the time to have it reviewed by others. Family members are a start, but even better might be folks in Extension, or at the NRCS or Conservation District Offices.

Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible.

The 7th National Grazing Lands Conference is coming up in December and it’s one of On Pasture’s favorites. One of the things that makes it so great is that folks just like you are the speakers, sharing their great experiences. Learn more about how to be a speaker here. And learn more about the event here.

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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

1 Comment

  1. Patrick Tobola says:

    I do not lease any land but would like to see more young people take up production agriculture (I’m excluding wildlife management from this discussion) as a full time career. The only way that most young people can do this today is by leasing land.

    After reading that the thing landlords look for most is a “good farmer” (almost twice as much as the next closest reason), I’ve become very discouraged about the future for young farmers. All of the things that are listed as attributes of a good farmer are probably some of the last things we should be doing which means that you will need to be a little deceptive about what your practices are if you want to get the lease and you intend to manage the land using some of the current management principles being suggested like the ones written about in OnPasture. This means that you will have an additional task of convincing the landlord after they see what you are doing is actually a “good” practice. For example, if your landlord expects you to control weeds and brush, you will need to find a way to convince them that those 10 foot tall sunflowers in your cover crop mix or the strip of brush provides a windbreak for your livestock and habitat for wildlife are actually good things.

    It’s disappointing to see that raising high quality food and fiber for both human and animal consumption without degrading the environment (or actually improving it) at a profit was not part of being a good farmer according to most landlords. It seems that the main reason most landlords are willing to lease the land in the first place (myself included after I am no longer able to manage it myself) is to maintain the ag exemption on the property to avoid going bankrupt paying property taxes on large acreages of non agricultural land. So then the next reason that’s used to pick a tenet is whether or not they will maintain the property is such a way that it looks nice and neat like a well manicured monoculture lawn using only shiny new equipment that the neighbors can see and parked in well painted barns behind new fences with no brush or weeds growing in the fence lines.

    Good luck.

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