Virginia has a huge variety of farmland, and much of it is either not being used, or could be used in more productive ways. There are several roadblocks for both young farmers and experienced farmers when trying to locate and lease suitable farmland.
OWNERS- need to evaluate their property and decide what they want their farm and land to be used for, and what are their main reasons for leasing their farm land. It could be for income, tax advantages of land use, conservation, help with farm maintenance, etc. Once an owner puts together a plan for their farm, they then need to decide if they are going to farm it, or lease it out to one or more farmers. Every owner has different ideas. Also, plans should be flexible. Leases should also be flexible and allow for changes if both parties agree. This is why monitoring what goes on on the farm is important. Lease can be 6 month trials , 1-2 years, or 5 years, or something else. Leases over 5 years should be recorded ( or memorandum of lease) should be recorded. Other things that will come into play are fencing, water, equipment, access, restrictions, zoning, impact on neighbors, chemicals, plow resrictions on riparian areas, wildlife, etc.
FARMERS- looking for land to farm. This is where many sellers run into problems. They rush to make a decisions to get someone to bale hay or put cattle on their farm because they want to make sure they meet land use requirements. And the farmers sometime pressure them to make a deal which is not in writing, and next thing you know 5 of his buddies are hunting on the property. This scenario is common. If you want to lease land for farming, owners will be more willing to work with you if you've gone through a program like certified farm seekers, and you have a written plan, and you take the time to discuss with owners what their plan for the property is. Each item on the lease should be dicussed. Young farmers might only want to run a flower growing operation on 5-7 acres. Others might want 20+ acres for quality hay. Both owner and farmer need to know who will pay for fertilizers, tractors, etc. Will owner provide a barn for storage? Will bush hogging be required? How often? etc, etc.
This is one reason using a matching service like farmseekers can save everyone time, and make it easier for owners and farmers to meet to discuss a leasing arrangement, and get matched up.
There is much more to it, but if you are an owner and need help evaluating your land before committing to a farmer, just contact me. I can help and provide several more resources.
Jeff Pearl | Lic in VA
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