September’s Grazier’s Focus is about working with neighboring crop farmers to graze cover crops and crop residue. As a warm up, here’s something you might need – a letter of introduction or a resume that helps them get to know you.
There is no magic recipe that will make a prospective landlord say, “Yes! 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 show what landlords told researchers they look for most: 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.
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. Here’s an example:
“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:
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.
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 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.”
Need some help with this? Here you go!
Before You Graze, Know Your Goals: What Are You Doing? Why Are You Doing It?
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.”
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.”
If you have insurance already, share that information. If not, you can skip this section or note that you’ll be acquiring it.
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.
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.