It’s always a good idea to ask questions before entering into a farm lease. The following list of questions is a good starting place, and the farm lease checklists listed below are valuable resources to help you get a sense of what you should expect from a good farm lease – before you sign on the dotted line.
The Natick Community Organic Farm (NCOF) in Natick, Massachusetts, has been operating successfully on 27 acres of town-owned land for more than 40 years.
The following is a collection of leasing checklists developed by farm organizations nationwide. These checklists have been developed from various perspectives (farmer, landowner, beginning farmer, lawyer, etc.) and can be used to help you get a sense of your leasing goals or to assess a lease.
A lawyer who has experience working with farmers can also help you review or draft a farm lease. It’s a smart business practice to have a lawyer review a farm lease, especially if the lease is for multiple years and you are depending on the lease for income and/or housing.
Drake University, Sustainable Agricultural Land Tenure Initiative, Determining Priorities and Exploring Possibilities
Farm Commons, Drafting a Lease: Questions for Farmers and Landowners to Ask, by Rachel Armstrong
The Ohio State University Extension, Farm Rental Agreement Checklist, by Donald J. Breece
Land for Good, Elements of a Good Farm Lease
University of Vermont, Farm Rental Assessment Checklist
Please also see the Leasing Resources page in this toolkit for more information on farm leasing, and learn about our upcoming Farm Lease Builder here.
It’s not an attorney’s job to make decisions for farmers or to set farm transfer goals. Instead, attorneys can provide information about pros and cons of different options, advice about what is common versus unusual, fair versus unfair, etc. Attorneys can help farmers understand the range of possible farm transfer goals and help narrow down individual options so that farmers can make final decisions.
The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems is an initiative of Vermont Law School, and this toolkit provides general legal information for educational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute, and should not be relied upon, for legal advice. Each farmer’s circumstances are unique, state laws vary, and the information contained herein is specific to the time of publication. Accordingly, for legal advice, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.