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5 expert tips to add value to your farmland

Want to increase your farmland's value? We’re sharing 5 expert-tested methods to turn underperforming plots into long-term appreciating land assets.

by Reid Weiland

Imagine if you had a goldmine and all you did was let it collect weeds. Sounds crazy, right? 

Yet, this is precisely what happens to many farms that fall by the wayside.

Whether you acquired a diamond-in-the-rough property or are dealing with a tenant who isn’t exactly holding up their end of the bargain, this happens more than you may think.

Most farms sold — and, as a sixth-generation farmer, I’d estimate this at about 90% — could use more than just a fresh coat of paint.

Apart from the obvious, these properties can also greatly benefit from improving their overall value.

The value of your farmland is made up of five interconnected components that, when improved, maximize the land’s potential to become a successful, long-term investment.

Fail to invest in these factors? You risk having a parcel that underappreciates and underperforms compared to its peers. 

So, what are these attributes and how do you unearth your farmland's true potential? Let’s dig in…

Why it’s important to enhance your farmland’s value

Farmland isn't a short-term investment; it's a long-term asset. 

And its real value lies in its ability to grow in value over time.

By focusing on five key aspects, you’re not only increasing the land's current worth but also securing its future value and, therefore, your return on investment (ROI).

  1. Farmability
  2. Productivity
  3. Appearance 
  4. Environmental stewardship
  5. Pedigree

This approach takes more than just routine maintenance. It requires actively laying the foundation for long-term growth and sustainability, thereby increasing the intrinsic value of your land.

This is where having a strong landowner-tenant partnership becomes crucial for the long-term health of your agricultural property. When your tenant is as vested in the longevity and health of the farmland as you are, you're setting the stage for reliable, long-term returns — from both current income and land appreciation.

5 ways to add value to your farmland 

Let’s look at these five key strategies to enhance the value of your farmland.

1. Improve the land’s farmability 

“Farmability" describes the ease and efficiency of your farmland’s agricultural operations. 

In the 65 farms Weiland Farms has managed for two decades, we've discovered firsthand that operational efficiency is a game-changer. 

Fewer operational hassles lead to fewer errors, which in turn, result in two key outcomes:

  • Reduced operational cost
  • Increased revenue

Many newly acquired farms struggle with this farmability, which is often the reason they end up on the market in the first place. 

The saying "time is money" holds particular weight in agriculture, especially in north-central Iowa. 

One of the driving factors is the seasonality of Midwest cash crops. Farmers are restricted by the possibility of adverse weather conditions during both the planting and harvest seasons. 

This forces them to own expensive equipment they need to use as efficiently as possible. 

If your farm is difficult to manage, that inefficiency increases your tenant’s costs across the board and, consequently, any lease or revenue-based income you can expect.

What does poor farmability look like?

Poor farmability can manifest as things like inefficient workflows, water drainage problems and fences overwhelmed by weeds. These inefficiencies complicate a farmer's work, making operations more labor-intensive and time-consuming.

How to improve farmability

  • Straighten fence lines: When fences aren’t parallel or aligned to the row crop, it creates gaps that encourage weed growth, which hurts your land’s productivity. Invest in precision technology to align crop grows and fences properly and eliminate these problem areas.
  • Improve waterways: Obstacles like ruts in waterways can slow down machinery and potentially cause damage. Use land grading techniques to make sure these areas are passable.
  • Manage wet spots: Wet spots or poor drainage areas can make acres unproductive, which can affect your farm’s value. Consider improving the drainage or, if the land isn’t worth farming, converting these areas to a Conservation Reserve Program.
  • Add field driveways: Inadequate driveways can add operational time and slow down efficiency. Install or enhance driveways to considerably streamline farm operations. This is something we’ve done 15 different times in the last three years.

2. Make sure the farmland is productive

Productivity is about getting the most yield out of every acre of your farmland. It’s an indicator of your land's capacity to deliver consistent, high-quality crop yields over time. 

But making your farmland productive isn't always straightforward. 

We’ve seen neglected fields take up to seven years and various methods — from soil tilling to nutrient applications — to turn profitable.

In every region, maximizing farmland productivity is going to look different. Here in north-central Iowa, our focus is on soil fertility and effective drainage systems.

In this area, fertile soil serves as a reserve, acting as a buffer against disruptions from weather variability.

Effective drainage systems are equally important for overall land health. Think of your farm's drainage system as similar to a town's sewage system. Just as you pay your water bill to maintain municipal drainage, your farmland collective drainage systems may need periodic improvement. Then there's your in-field drainage, similar to the plumbing in your house, which you might need to improve to optimize water flow.

What does poor farmland productivity look like?

Low farm productivity can show up as stunted crop growth, consistently low yields per acre, and greater susceptibility to disease or pests. Think of it as any scenario where you're not maximizing the economic output from your property.

How to improve farmland productivity

If your farmland is located in north-central Iowa, here are some strategies we recommend to boost farmland productivity: 

  • Manage soil fertility: Low-fertility soil can drastically limit your yields. Consider using nutrient-rich organic materials, like chicken litter, alongside commercial fertilizers for targeted nourishment to enhance soil fertility.
  • Optimize drainage systems: Waterlogged soil can lead to root rot and hinder the establishment of plants, providing an opportunity for weeds to take over. Evaluate your drain systems and improve them as needed to promote better soil drainage and overall crop health.

3. Enhance your property’s appearance 

Your farmland’s appearance matters — not just for its visual appeal but for its overall health and, by extension, the value it adds to your property. 

A well-maintained, aesthetically pleasing farm is more attractive to potential tenants (or buyers) and could command a higher price.

Let's say you're showing your farmland to a potential investor or buyer. 

You'd want the landscape to highlight its best features, right? 

Here’s an example of a farm whose land management Weiland Farms took over in 2014:

Before we intervened, the farm displayed yellowish, bald patches devoid of crops. Take note of the incomplete, thinly constructed waterway (starting in the upper left corner), as well as the steep, erosion-prone areas covered in patchy grass.

And here’s the same farmland six years later in 2021:

Established waterways, including the addition of the fork-like waterway on the bottom left, are now prominent features of the landscape. Previously steep areas now have robust grass coverage, and the farm as a whole boasts a lush, even green color. Additionally, any clutter from the former building site (shown on the left in the ‘before’ image) has been cleared away to improve farmability.

You can see why improving the aesthetic aspects of your farmland does more than add “curb appeal.”

It shows that your property has been managed meticulously.

The philosophy applies to your tenant farmer, too.

If they take pride in your farmland’s appearance, they're more likely to manage the land to high standards.

Not to mention, having well-groomed land can make day-to-day operations smoother by ensuring clear paths and minimizing potential issues like overgrowth or debris.

What does neglected farmland look like?

This one is pretty self-explanatory; neglected farms often have overgrown vegetation, broken or misaligned fences, or dilapidated structures. Anything that shows a lack of maintenance, diminishes the property’s appeal and could turn off potential buyers or tenants.

How to improve farm appearance

  • Manage weeds: Unruly weeds can tarnish your land's appearance and hinder your land’s productivity. Make sure weeds are sprayed regularly to prevent overgrowth. 
  • Maintain fences: Unaligned fences create visual and functional gaps along your property. Regularly inspect and straighten your fences, and consider removal if they’re no longer useful. 
  • Remove trees: Trees at the field edges — what we sometimes call "woody weeds on the prairie" — can disrupt crop growth. These aren’t giant redwoods but rather invasive growths that can affect the health and yield of your crops. Assess these periodically and remove these types of trees to enhance both the look and productivity of your farmland. 
  • Clean up infrastructures: Old or abandoned buildings can be eyesores and legal liabilities. Consider removing these structures either by handling it internally or coordinating with specialized service providers.

4. Minimize your farm’s environmental impact 

A farm’s environmental impact refers to the range of effects its farming methods can have on the environment, from soil erosion to water quality. 

Managing these aspects is critical for the long-term health and value of your farmland, and the planet. 

As the world continues to wake up to the importance of sustainability and regenerative agriculture, responsibly managed farmland continues to become more appealing to prospective tenants and buyers.

What does poor environmental management look like?

Farm land that’s being environmentally mismanaged can show up in a variety of ways, including soil erosion, polluted water and not following sustainable farming methods. 

How to minimize your farm’s environmental impact

  • Prevent soil erosion: Areas at risk of erosion can lead to the loss of your most fertile soil. This can diminish your farmland’s productivity. Identify susceptible areas and consider implementing minimal-till, no-till or the installation of grassed waterways to better preserve the soil.
  • Manage water quality: Poor water quality can affect both the natural environment and the quality of drinking water for people. Consider installing filter systems to remove nitrates from water. Some state-funded programs may even offset the costs so that there’s no upfront charge to the landowner. 
  • Improve waterways: Neglected waterways can lead to erosion and loss of soil nutrients. Use drainage water management or filter strips to manage water more efficiently and protect soil health.
  • Invest in sustainable farming methods: Sustainable farming is not only good for the environment, it can also improve soil health and long-term productivity. Ensure your farmer-tenant shows a comm

5. Build out your farm’s pedigree 

A farm's pedigree refers to its proven history and capacity to grow high-yield, alternative or high-quality crops. 

Building a strong pedigree is essential for leveraging your land in high-value situations, and it can make your property more appealing to prospective tenants and business opportunities. 

Imagine that you’re approached with a business proposal…

An entrepreneur wants to grow a specialized, high-value crop on your land for their new high-protein snack bar. 

What could you, as the landowner, present to validate your farm's productive capacity for this specialized project? 

While your tenant's capabilities are important, your farm's pedigree is the foundational component that could make or break such a deal.

What does a farm with a weak pedigree look like?

A farm with a subpar or poorly documented pedigree may lack comprehensive records of past crop yields, pest management strategies and fertility levels. Without this documentation, it's difficult to assure potential tenants, partners or investors of your land's productive capacity.

How to enhance your farm’s pedigree

  • Document farm and land management practices: Maintain meticulous written documentation of all farm management practices. This should include long-term crop yield performance records, soil quality reports and pest management logs. This data becomes your credibility backbone when you're looking to attract high-value projects to your farmland.
  • Partner with a professional farmer: While much depends on your land’s foundational pedigree, partnering with a professional farmer can boost its value. A seasoned farmer can help implement best practices, maximize the use of resources and bring in the latest agricultural technologies — supporting your efforts to build out a strong pedigree. 

The role of agricultural technology in boosting farmland value

When it comes to optimizing your farmland, agricultural technology plays an important role.

Innovation allows farmers to adapt to changing economic and environmental conditions, keeping themselves, landowners and their investments ahead of the curve.

The right technology also helps improve your farm’s productivity, which translates to lower costs and higher yields.

Here's how innovation, paired with traditional farming wisdom, can enhance your land’s value


Consumers, and therefore food and seed companies, are becoming increasingly concerned about the origins and quality of what’s on the dinner table.

That makes traceability — documenting each phase of crop growth, including pesticides used and soil conditions — a big deal for landowners. 

Being able to trace a crop’s journey isn't just about ticking boxes for compliance; in this sense, it becomes a way to enhance your land's reputation for quality, thereby boosting its value.

When your crops require detailed documentation, especially with identity-preserved crops, this traceability becomes an asset in itself.

Your farm land becomes prime real estate in the eyes of discerning customers, making it more valuable in the process.

One of the ways we ensure traceability at Weiland Farms is by integrating systems that maintain meticulous records at every stage of crop growth, from seed to harvest. This process safeguards each crop’s unique DNA when growing identity-preserved crops, allowing our customers’ products to stand out in the market. 

Precision agriculture

Precision agriculture, the practice of using advanced technologies to monitor and manage field variability, is the cornerstone of productive, efficient, sustainable farming.

With precision agriculture, you can make data-driven decisions that significantly impact your farming operations. 

This approach not only improves yields but also minimizes resource expenditure, thereby contributing to more sustainable land use. The net result is more eco-friendly, efficient operations.

Automation technologies, such as GPS with RTK (real-time kinematics), which provides highly accurate location tracking, and auto-steer systems, enable farmers to work with pinpoint accuracy. These tools not only maximize output, they also contribute to sustainability by reducing waste and optimizing resources.

For example…

Something as simple as having the ability to create straight lines in a field that can be repeated year after year can have a multiplier effect. By using year-over-year repeatable straight lines that are perfectly parallel to the field edge, farmers can manage pests like weeds with an accuracy down to an inch. This level of precision prevents these weeds from maturing and producing seeds that could be blown into the interior of the field. Once there, those seeds can become part of the weed seed bank, potentially requiring management for decades to come. 

At Weiland Farms we integrate some of the most leading-edge technologies in our farming operations, including agricultural drones and IoT sensors for soil monitoring, to optimize every inch of land. This helps ensure that a landowner’s farmland isn't just productive but is an asset that appreciates.

Strategic partnerships

You might be thinking, what do partnerships have to do with land value? In a word: everything. 

Proactively building relationships with government and industry bodies is a strategic move that can multiply your reach and impact.

These partnerships can unlock doors to vital resources landowners may not be aware of, such as: 

  • Financial incentives or subsidies for implementing new technologies
  • Access to exclusive industry research 
  • Proven best practices for farm management

These elements can contribute to better farmland management and thus a more reputable, and therefore high-value, piece of farmland.

We actively cultivate these strategic partnerships to equip ourselves with the latest resources and insights. This enables us to better maximize a farm’s profitability and sustainability.

Add value to your farmland

Improving your land's suitability for farming, productivity, appearance, environmental stewardship and pedigree increases its entire value.

While the metrics we use today to measure these farmland attributes may be rudimentary, they’re paving the way toward a future where we can precisely assess a land's resilience and flexibility in crop production.

By adopting these five interconnected strategies, you're not just optimizing individual components of your farmland — you're making the most out of your entire farming operation and land asset. 

If this approach resonates with you, and you're seeking ways to unlock your north-central Iowa farmland’s potential, we should talk. We can assess your situation, offer recommendations for improvement or if necessary, take over land management to optimize your land’s performance and profitability. Feel free to schedule a no-obligation consultation to discuss your unique situation with me. 

Reid Weiland is the managing partner of Weiland Farms. He oversees the farm’s day-to-day operations and leads all land management and farmland acquisition efforts.