Rental farmland becoming the new norm

NASHUA, Iowa – Iowa is home to more than 90,000 farms, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture. With those farms comes just over 30 million acres of crops, where a trend is becoming more and more prevalent. Much of that farmland is being rented out.

“I’m too old to farm it myself,” says former farmer, Jim Thedens from Ventura.

He has put in his hours behind the tractor wheel, but now he is just a farmer at heart. He’s not ready to let go of his farmland just yet, so instead he rents it out.

“It ranges anywhere from 40 up to over 60% of farms, by region, of Iowa are being rented out,” says Farm and Ag Business Specialist, Kristen Schulte, with the Iowa State Extension Office.

She attributes some of this to cases like Thedens.

“The average age of the farmer is 57 years old. As farmers are getting older, they are renting out that land,” says Schulte.

That land has sentimental value, so many are not prepared to just put it up for sale. That’s especially true when it has been in your family for over 100 years, like the Simerson’s.

“My sisters and I inherited it. There are three of us who inherited half of this farm from my father when he died. The farm meant everything to him. That’s why we are really going to try to keep it in the family as long as we can,” says Nancy Simerson of Charles City.

While Simerson and her sisters don’t farm the land, they do rent it out to family. This gives those wanting to get into the high stakes business somewhere to start.

“It allows beginning farmers to come in and start building their operations,” says Schulte.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find land for sale, and when you do, it carries a hefty price tag.

“I suppose that’s the only way they’re going to get into it. Young people cannot afford to buy this land right off the top,” says Simerson.

Renting out land isn’t only good for incoming farmers either. Those like Thedens, who have spent their lives working the land, are now able to kick back and let the land work for them.

“We worked all of our lives paying for it, so now we use it for our retirement program,” says Thedens.

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