Orchard land lease

I am looking into expanding my orchard , and with my limited acreage now planted, I have begun looking into leasing land. There is a surplus of unused fields in my area, and my idea is to get a landowner to lease some to me for free for a 20-30 year period. I have put the word out, and have started getting some responses, very encouraging! Seems to me that this arrangement should be formalized with a formal written lease that would protect both the landowners liability and also my own investment in time and labor. Does anyone have experience with something like this, or know of resources I might apply to my situation?

There are a lot of free land lease forms available on-line. This is a very simple, straight forward one.

Thanks! I’ve also found sustainablefarmlease.org a good souce of information.

I once had a half-assed lease for land I was using for a nursery. The owners assured me that they were keeping the land for the rest of their lives but changed their minds due to health issues and sold it to David Letterman just as my first trees were large enough to sell. I couldn’t get past Letterman’s lawyers to try to get permission to keep the nursery there.

The man has the typical privacy issues of celebrities these days (and who can blame them with the intrusive paparazzi). I got no compensation and lost a big piece of change and had to move every tree to another location.

I had even been on his property adjacent to this piece of land pruning apple trees for him- only I wasn’t supposed to know who I was working for. Of course, everyone living within 5 miles of him knows he’s there.

I will sell the address to any paparazzi out there who will pay me the money I lost on setting up the nursery and then having to move it… :wink:

Be careful on leasing land for long term crops. I was involved with a sod farm lease when the owner died, the heirs decided they didn’t like sod growers and the lease and 40 acres of sod went away. At least get the right of first refusal, where they offer the land for sale to you first before any one else, on paper with proper legalisms. PYA.

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White Oak Nursery of Strasburg, PA is doing something similar.

You need what’s called a development lease. A few bucks spent with an agricultural lawyer now will save a lot more later. A “cheap” or “free” form is not what you need. You need sections dealing with compensation for early termination, who is responsible for the well (if there is one), etc.

If your state has an organization called “FarmLink” (i.e. in CA it’s called California FarmLink) they can help you write a lease.

I’d also suggest that you file a copy of the lease with the county recorder. With a recorded lease, if the property is sold, the new owners are still bound by the lease.

Why would a property owner bind himself to a formal agreement if he’s not going to get any compensation?

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I was wondering about the same question. What is the upside for the property owner??? Is it property upkeep, taxes etc?

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Who suggested there would be no compensation? I’ve always had to supply some kind of compensation for the use of someone’s land but it has always been by way of some kind of barter- usually in the form of taking care of the landowners fruit trees.

I assume Jesse will be paying rent.

It is probably safer to have a relationship based on business when you are investing so much of your own labor and money into a project that will take years to turn to profit.

However, I have no contract with the owners of the land where I have my auxiliary nursery now. I’ve already made back my original investment, so no worries. They were the only people who offered the use of their land when funny Dave made me move my trees.


I was wondering the same thing because in Jesses first sentences he mentions free. I’d do it for free fruit and upkeep of the land!

I wondered about the free part as well. Sounds like a sweet deal if you can get it.


Exactly what SMatthew said. Great advice. Don’t try to be your own lawyer on this one.

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When I moved into our neighborhood 17 years ago the open space lot next to my house was left very messy by the developer. He planted a few trees which was in the agreement with the neighborhood and died within the first year because of poor planting. Over that time I have transformed it into a nice little orchard. Once in a while one of the neighbors will mention that it’s not my land, but most of the homeowners don’t care or like walking by and seeing fresh apples growing on the trees. I always offer my apples to the neighbors and intend next year to have an apple picking day and cider pressing for anyone interested here. It boggles my mind when I think how crappy the lot looked and how nice I maintain it when someone brings up ownership of the land.

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Man, I’ve got to read more carefully. I skimmed over it twice and didn’t find that part somehow- even though I was looking for it.

At any rate, you couldn’t get me to sign a contract if I was getting no financial or other compensation- I agree with Cousinfloyd completely on that.

That’s the best reason to plant trees correctly that I’ve seen yet. :wink:

Free may mean very expensive in my experience. I’ve been the caretaker of a fishing pond where I got to fish for free. The things that go with the job can be a lot of work. Of course when I do something I tend to overdue by my nature. I had a friend who’s family got free land in Oklahoma from a relative for as long as they wanted. The place was full of ditches they filled with brush etc and plowed shut. They fixed up an abandoned house etc. When the land was liveable again and they were enjoying the fruits of their labor the relative sold it and made a bundle and they were out of a home. I would suggest buying the land on contract or leasing with a contract but nothing will get you cheated worse than something free.

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Oftentimes something you get for free is worth less than what you paid for it.

I’ve seen it often.

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Reasons a landowner might want to free lease some land for a long term orchard-

-At the end of the 25 year lease, they would have an established orchard without lifting a finger, and those trees should easily last another 50 years.
-Some people may want to support local agriculture, heirloom preservation taking place on fallow ground.
-A percentage of the crop and value added products.
-Absentee owners would have someone looking over the property in their absence.
-Tax breaks by having the land in agricultural use.

If I could find someone with a similar vision I would be ecstatic to have them build an orchard on our property! Hell I would buy all the trees and pay expenses!