Land Rental Insights - Part 2: Farmer Views

12 February '13

In our previous blog we shared some of the insights we gained from landowners at the Canadian International Farm Show. Now, we'll share the main messages we heard from the farm operators we met. While a lot of these views came as no surprise to us, it was still so valuable to hear the individual stories and experiences. We hope you'll take time to read through, and leave us a comment on what matters most to you!
1) The demand for land is significant, and widely felt within the farm community. Nearly every farmer who stopped by our booth said they are looking for more land for their operation. While some were farming at capacity and didn't need to expand, most described a similar position - wanting (or needing) more acres, but feeling the scarcity of opportunity. 
2) Farmers told us that they often found out about land rental opportunities when it was already too late. This was a very common theme - frequently, farmers only hear about land that was available for rent after it has already been rented - and this is a source of frustration. Farmers saw a real value in being able to have access to information about properties for rent, in time to make their offer.  
3) Farmers are aware of their competitive advantages and pride themselves on how they treat rented land (as well as their own). They know what their operation has to offer and why they would make great tenants in a lease arrangement. Yet, farmers feel like their farm management practices are overshadowed by price alone, when it comes to being selected as a tenant. We found this an interesting point, because one of the insights we gained from landowners was how there seems to be increasing awareness about the need to look beyond the highest offer when selecting a tenant. This topic came up so frequently during the farm show, that we feel it may warrant a blog of its own (so stay tuned!).
4) Closely tied to the above points, is how fiercely competitive farmers can be when it comes to gaining rental land. A great deal of farmers told us they felt like the land rental process had become so demanding that they were disappointed about how unneighbourly the process of upbidding against one another can become. Part of this concern was that information that many preferred to keep private, such as what they personally had offered on land, becomes circulated through the rural rumour mill. We found that farmers value their privacy and don't want people to know what they have offered on a piece of land, or even if they had made an offer in the first place. 
5) Last, we were encouraged by the number of young farmers we met at the show, and had a listening ear to hear how difficult it can be to 'break into the farming sector'as an 'outsider'. Recall that today, only 8% of farmers are under the age of 35. Proportionally, young people who will become the backbone of the farm community in just a few short years are so few in number. For the sustainability of farming in the years to come, it's essential that more young people are able to enter into agricultural occupations. Right now, there are a lot of barriers to entry, and the ability to find out about land rental opportunities is just one of many. Young farmers showed a keen interest in the model, feeling like the process itself would open up new channels for them to get a foot in the door. 
Again, these are just some of the most common themes we encountered, and not meant to cover all the bases. All in all, it was also interesting for us to see the reaction landowners and farmers alike had to our booth. As this farm show was our very first public appearance, we turned a lot of heads. Granted, in today's farm economy, the words 'land' and 'rent' in the same phrase are likely to have that affect. We are so grateful to everyone who shared their views and concerns with us. Also, we're not afraid to admit that at times, people's initial reaction to was curious, suspicious and perhaps braced for disappointment at the assumption of what we are all about; the upside to this was seeing the relief and even enthusiasm people had after hearing more about what is (and isn't)! 

The overall response was overwhelmingly positive, and receptive. We are excited to have finally launched and look forward to providing this service!