Good communication and getting landlord buy-in are good starting points when building soil health on leased grazing land (originally published for Noble Rancher).
Nearly 40% of all agricultural land in the United States is rented, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For many ranchers, leased land will play a role in achieving their business goals. Noble Research Institute livestock consultant Robert Wells offers tips to help regenerative ranchers navigate the relationships with people and land that come with renter responsibilities.
When taking on a new lease, take time to build understanding and trust at the start. In many ways, these opening conversations will set the tone for the rest of the relationship.
“This is so important,” Wells emphasizes. “Ninety-nine percent of the problems we face are rooted in miscommunication or a lack of communication.”
Most communication problems, he says, tie back to expectation problems.
If your management goals include minimizing the use of chemical herbicides and increasing plant species diversity, but the landlord is accustomed to his or her property looking like a manicured park, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
“If you’re really clear about what you expect the land to look like, and they’re even the slightest bit uncomfortable, you want to know that upfront,” Wells says. “Then you have time to address those concerns before you start investing time, money, infrastructure.”
A thorough evaluation of the land gives you shared language to use in setting shared goals and marking progress. Wells suggests a Haney soil test and a forage evaluation as a starting point. Learn more about the history of the land, how it’s been managed in the past and what worked or didn’t work for previous tenants.