The information in this Guide is intended for use as educational material to assist landowners, farmers, and their advisors in understanding various laws, regulations, and lease provisions. The Guide is not intended, and should not be used, as a substitute or replacement for individual legal advice. Landowners and farm operators should consult a lawyer and other relevant professionals prior to entering a lease agreement. Reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this Guide; however, the content and interpretation of laws and regulations are subject to change. The effect of future legislative, administrative, and judicial  developments cannot be predicted. For these reasons, the utilization of these materials by any person represents an agreement to hold harmless the author, the Agricultural Law Center, Drake University and the Law School, the Leopold Center, and Iowa State University for any liability, claims, damages, or expenses that may be incurred by any person as a result of reference to or reliance on the information contained in this Guide.

This guide is written to assist landowners in understanding their role as a landlord and a steward of the land, encourage open communication between landowner and tenant, and ultimately aid in the development of a lease agreement that is beneficial to the landowner, the farmer, the community, and the land.


Cover of The Landowner's Guide to Sustainable Farm Leasing

You can download and print the Guide as a PDF, though viewing the Guide online is recommended in order to take advantage of the following features:

  • Video commentary from legal and agricultural experts, landowners, and farmers;
  • Links to additional information on conservation topics, such as floodplain management and farmland preservation;
  • Links to more in-depth analysis of landlord-tenant laws and their relationship to sustainable farm practices;
  • Definitions of tenancy and conservation terms and concepts;
  • Links to other relevant websites and publications.

Click a link below to begin.


  • What You’ll Find in this Guide
  • Obtaining Further Assistance

Chapter One: The Basics

  • The Basics of Sustainability
  • The Basics of Farm Leases

Chapter Two: Determining Priorities

  • Importance of Prioritizing
  • Questions to Ask Yourself

Chapter Three: Talking to Your Tenant

  • Understanding Important Terms and Concepts
  • Understanding the Tenant’s Perspective
  • Social Dimensions of the Landlord-Tenant Relationship
  • Finding the Right Tenant
  • Keeping the Right Tenant

Chapter Four: Farm Leases, Sustainability, and the Law

  • Contract Law
  • Landlord-Tenant Law
  • External Legal Considerations
  • Incorporating Laws Into the Agreement

Chapter Five: Key Considerations for a Sustainable Farm Lease Agreement

  • The Term
  • Reimbursement for Improvements
  • Cost-sharing
  • Risk-sharing
  • Conservation Provisions
  • Communication

Chapter Six:  A Few Additional Considerations

  • Recreational Uses
  • Ecosystem Services
  • Agricultural and Conservation Easements
  • Assisting a New Farmer