Holding Land: The Basics - About
What is farmland tenure?
In simple terms, land tenure describes how land is held. The word tenure comes from the Latin tenir, which means "to hold". There are different ways to hold land. The most common form in many cultures, including our own, is private ownership. Nonetheless, in reality nearly half of U.S. farmland is rented. Land tenure arrangements determine who can use what resources for how long, and under what conditions. Land tenure relationships may be well defined and legally enforceable. They may rely on informal understandings within a community. They may be poorly defined with ambiguities open to confusion and exploitation.
Farmland tenure breaks into two main categories. These are ownership or tenancy. Property ownership can be thought of as a bundle of rights. You have many rights associated with ownership - cutting down the trees, erecting structures, extracting minerals, hunting and fishing, and so on. However, there are limitations to that bundle. Laws and regulations limit the landowner's use. Land ownership is a strong cultural value and a goal for many farmers. However, it is not a goal for all farmers. Nor is it realistic for many farmers, especially those starting out.
Among the rights associated with property ownership is the right to let others use it. This right enables those who do not own the property to obtain certain rights to its use. One does not need to own the property in order to use it, care for it, and benefit from it. Consequently, dividing the rights and responsibilities of land use becomes more important than who owns the title.
There are people, organizations and public entities that own agricultural land that they do not farm. In fact, nearly 90% of farm landlords are not farmers. They have various motivations to have their land in agriculture. They are willing to assign certain rights out of their "bundle of land uses" to another party. In these cases, the farmer obtains rights through a rental or lease agreement to use (farm) the land without outright ownership.
For more information about the basics of holding land see:
Links to Further Resources
California Farm Link, Farmers Guide to Securing Land
This guide is currently available in print only. Cost is $25 + shipping. To order, contact Eric Winders, CA FarmLink Central Coast Regional Coordinator, email@example.com (831) 425-0303