How To Start the Conservation Discussion on Rented Ground

Show landlords why practices require investment. ( Illustration: Lindsey Pound; Photo: Nathan Brause )

ACAMBuilding trust in food begins with empowering farmers through one of the largest and most diverse conservation- and sustainability-focused public-private partnerships in our nation’s history: America’s Conservation Ag Movement. To find the latest news and resources related to the Movement, visit

Starting no-till, cover cropping or any other conservation-minded practice takes time, research and effort, and for farmers who rent land, it might not seem worth it when the land could switch hands the next year. What would it mean to your operation if you could convince your landlord of the value of long-term conservation?

“Often times I hear from both landowners and tenant questioning how to incorporate specific conservation practices into leases,” says Angie Rieck-Hinz, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist. “The first step to take is for both parties to meet and have an open discussion about the goals of including specific practices.”

While farmers might understand the benefits of sustainable practices such as no-till and cover crops, not all landlords will. Here are a few tips from farmers on how to start the conversation with landowners:

  • Social media: Consider creating a farm page on Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms to educate followers on practices. This is an easy way to showcase conservation ‘wins’ on farms.
  • Hand-written notes: Keep it personal with landlords. When sending in a rent check, consider sending a note that tells him or her what practice you’re excited about or what success you’ve seen on their land from sustainability efforts.
  • Host a field day: Invite the public to your farm, with special invitations for landlords. Use this time to work with NRCS or other experts to showcase the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of using certain conservation. Talk about what this means for the soil value and productivity.
  • Wildlife: Conservation practices such as cover crops and buffer strips can create wildlife habitat. For some landowners that’s a huge draw to a practice, whether it be for photography or hunting.

If you want to leverage conservation practices to secure longer-term leases, lower rent or start cost sharing, you have to prove the value. Former farmers are different than absentee or inherited landowners - tailor your approach to appeal to each.

Learn more about conservation practices and America's Conservation Ag Movement here:

Sustainability Goes Mainstream

Wisconsin Crop Adviser Wins NRCS Conservationist Of The Year

America’s Conservation Ag Movement Names Board and Releases Special Annual Reports

Advancing Soil Health Through the Power of Partnerships