How often do you communicate with the landlord about the farm ground you rent? If you’re farming rented ground, it can make a big difference in how you approach decisions, such as cover cropping. For most growers, the question is whether you be profitable while growing cover crops on rented land?
In my conversations with farmers, several of them have mentioned that they have been approached by landlords and even given the opportunity to rent new properties, simply because of what they’re doing with cover crops. This tells me that landlords are paying attention, they care about what is happening on the farm ground they own, and they’re looking for thoughtful, innovative tenants who will take care of the land.
If you’re planning to plant covers on rented ground, here are a few things to think through before talking with your landlord:
• Have a plan going into the conversation. Outline which cover crop species you want to use in which fields, which cash crops you will be planting alongside/before/after the covers and map out a timeline of when each crop will be planted.
• Make sure to be up front with your landlord about using cover crops. Tell them what you plan to do before planting covers. Cover crops can look like weeds out in the field to the untrained eye, and the last thing any grower needs is a mad landlord who thinks you have planted a field full of weeds!
• While you’re having that conversation with your landlord, be sure to explain what’s in it for them. Talk up the soil health benefits, such as reduced compaction, increased soil microbial health, etc., so the landlord knows that using covers will be an investment in their long-term success — and yours.
• Discuss with your landlord before bringing livestock into the equation. Not all landlords will be welcome having cattle graze covers in their fields, but if you can demonstrate the economic payback it’s well worth working that information into the conversation.
If you have a long-term lease, you could include planting cover crops as a condition of the lease when it comes time to renew.
A little bit of education can go a long way in making the conversation about cover crops go a long way.