Two men in a farm field. Improved soil health. Everyone profits. Everyone thrives.
Partnership Two farmers shake hands in a farm field. ©

Food & Water Stories

A Healthy, Profitable Future Starts with a Conversation

When farmers and landowners work together to improve soil health, everyone profits and everyone thrives.

With rich soils and abundant freshwater, Midwest farms are among the most productive lands on earth. More than 60 percent of the region’s farmlands are rented lands, and for generations, these farms have run on trust and handshakes between farmers and landowners. This trust remains the farm’s greatest untapped resource. All it takes to unleash its potential is a conversation.

Most farmers and landlords have long-standing, deep relationships—with trust earned and seasoned through the challenges of unpredictable weather, market swings and the shared commitment to run a productive and profitable farm. Yet formal collaboration between farmers and landlords around the use of soil health and nutrient management practices on rented farmland acres remains low. Many conservation practices require lengthy implementation periods and incur additional capital costs before their economic and conservation benefits can be achieved—meaning landowner and farmer collaboration is essential.  

Together, landowners and farmers can collaborate to adopt conservation agriculture practices that not only improve their respective bottom lines, but ensure a healthier landscape for growing our food, safeguarding our waterways and creating a sustainable food system for a growing world.

Everyone profits. Everyone thrives. It all starts with a conversation.

Farmers and Landowners: Collaborating for Success Trey Hill operates 10,000 acres of rented farmland in Maryland. Joe Hickman is one of 60 landowners from whom he rents. For 20+ years, Trey and Joe have worked together to use soil health and nutrient management practices for the benefit of their business, the environment and community.

Resources for Landowners and Farmers

The resources here can help farmers and landowners start conversations and begin collaborations about the benefits of conservation agriculture.

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    Unleashing the Potential of Rented Farmland

    Together landowners and farmers can reap the financial and sustainability rewards of conservation. All it takes is starting the discussion. Learn About Conservation Conversations

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    Multi-Year Leases and Conservation Co-Investment Strategies

    Landowners and farmers are co-investors in farmland. Working together on conservation strategies can benefit both parties. Learn About Co-Investing

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    Soil Health & Conservation Addendum

    Improving soil health benefits farmers and landowners. This addendum from the Univ. of Illinois addresses incorporating specific conservation practices into a lease agreement and can be used as a guide to build an agreement with your landlord. Download the Soil Health & Conservation Addendum

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    Nutrient Management Addendum

    The 4Rs of nutrient management maximize plant uptake and minimize field losses. This information from the University of Illinois can be used as a guide to incorporate a soil nutrient management plan into your lease agreement. Download the Nutrient Management Addendum

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    Conservation Habitat Addendum

    If enhancing wildlife habitat is a goal of your landlord, this information from the University of Illinois Extension can be used as a guide to develop an agreement on rented land. Download the Conservation Habitat Addendum

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    Cover Crop Lease Insertion

    Cover crops are an important consideration to improve soil health. Learn how to incorporate them in a lease agreement with this resource from The Nature Conservancy. Download the Cover Crop Lease Insertion