Buying versus Renting Land: pros & cons

Levels of Investment at an Emotional, Professional and Financial Level

Renting –

At a horticulture level it’s much easier to find land to rent than to buy. There are some key principles to have in mind when it comes to searching for land to rent.

First, it’s important to think in terms of security. Is the potential space you’re looking to rent secure enough for you to invest your time in? This comes down to a matter of secure tenure where you have negotiated with the landlord the terms of a contract for the lease of the land. Second, it’s also a challenge to find the right price for the right offer.

From an ecological and practical perspective, investing your time, knowledge and resources into building and regenerating the landscape, soil and infrastructure (fences/hedges, tracks, water, tool and packing shed etc), it’s vital that you are secure for a long enough period in your venture. Most growers will know these steps are a huge investment and require a community effort.

The other side of the scale is on a farming level which includes enterprises where livestock can be integrated. Here, you are looking at 10, 20, 100 acres or more. Finding land of such acreage is more difficult. If you are trying to secure land to rent of this sort you will find yourself up against many others in what is often called a ‘bidding war’. If it’s county council land you are more likely to get longer secure tenures. However, two key things to keep in mind is that money (usually a matter of who is prepared to pay more) and project or professional selection criteria are major factors in this process.

Working with private landowners can be difficult but also beneficial when it works well. Many growers and farmers have started their enterprises working with private landowners in this way either renting or buying small patches of land and starting their grazing livestock enterprises. Over time there is strength and value in building good relationships with landlords and neighbouring communities, it has been known that additional pieces of land may come your way once you are engaged in the local farming scene. A great example and source of inspiration is Hannah Thorogood at Inkpot Farm who started out with an 18-acre field that she brought and slowly expanded her enterprise over the years when more land was offered – she now carries out her enterprise across 300 acres!

Buying Land –

Buying land requires large amounts of money and often the factors that influence higher prices of land is location. Densely populated areas and land located in the south of the UK tend to be priced higher – we’ve seen land to buy at starting prices of £30,000 per acre. On the other hand, smaller patches of land such as 5 acres for horticultural use can be more reasonably priced.

In most situations acquiring land for the long-term is about funding and community engagement. This is where the BD Land Trust can offer support. We can provide real ownership of the land in the interest of the grower and community as well as long-term security. This is an important step as sometimes farming enterprises don’t work out as expected and, in this case, if the Trust owns the land then the future of the land is secure for organic and biodynamic activities, nature care and food growing. Being a community benefit Trust with a nationwide remit and a portfolio of owning several properties on behalf of the community, has provided us with longevity and knowledge of these processes. In sum, we recognise the strength in numbers, partnership, collaboration, experience, and community spirit are all vital ingredients toward finding and securing land for connection to food and nature.

Want to support our work?

At the Biodynamic Land Trust our work is made possible by the generosity of our long-standing donors, membership shareholders, low-level rent income from the land we hold in trust and occasional grant funding. If you would like to find out more about becoming a member and investing in shares or simply making a one-off donation, please do get in touch or check out our website.

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