Starter farm initiative - tenant insights: review

This report is an evaluation from the perspective of the tenants of the starter farm initiative of 9 starter farms which were made available from 2012 for a period of 10 years.

Tenant landlord relations

Views on tenant-landlord relations varied , with interviewees rating them from 3 to 8 (average 6.7) where 0 was very poor and 10 was excellent (see Figure 7). The majority felt that the frequency of contact was 'about right' but a couple felt there should have been more landlord communications. There was also a mixed response about whether relationships with the landlord had 'got worse' (3), 'stayed the same' (3) or 'got better' (2).

The majority felt that the landlord had not been particularly helpful in dealing with capital investments/landlord improvements (average score of 3.7 where 0 was not at all helpful and 10 was extremely helpful - but ranging from 0 to 8 in scores). Only one tenant said they had been involved in exploring a collaborative opportunity, but this was initiated by them. Two complained of proposals and ideas that were discussed that have never materialised.

Figure 7 distribution of ranking landlord relationship and support for investment in holding
Figure 7, consists of 2 charts, ranking (a) landlord relationship and (b) investment from starter farm interviewees.

It is uncertain what the tenants' expectations or experiences were of tenant-landlord relations. However, there was an undertone that there was greater landlord attention and efforts in the first few years, but as time progressed some tenants felt that attention waned – although that was not a universal perception. Around half of those interviewed felt that in the first few years that the landlord was keener to help than in later years. For example one tenant noted that "When we went into the farm it [landlord relationship] was good but now it is grinding to a halt. No money in government departments to do things so they leave us to get on with things, which is good, but repairs to buildings and stuff is very slow." Another added that in "the first year they would fall over themselves to help us and were quite understanding and if you showed them the problem, they would do their best to try and help you fix it or at least understand it. Now, they couldn't really give a damn". On the other hand one tenant observed that "They know me and I know them, they don't bother me and I don't bother them – we've learnt to work together."

One tenant explained that the time to get things fixed was slow as the landlord struggles to get contractors and the ones they get "are pretty awful", resulting in them sorting/fixing problems themselves. Another commented that "Quite honestly you don't ask for stuff, basically it's a waste of breath".

A few tenants felt that a contributing factors for this change related to available finance with comments that: "[the landlord] has no money… to do things so they leave us to get on" and "it's like they have spent all the allocated money". Others felt that changes in landlord dealings was political: "we have fallen down the priority list" and "I feel our landlord doesn't want to be a landlord – it's not run like an estate." Others thought that reported changes in the relationship was a result of the change in contact person with comments such as "different agents made it difficult to establish a relationship" and that "it [the relationship] has gone from someone very open…[to] the change of guard, it was quite different".

One tenant felt that their landlord, and employees, lacked empathy for the tenant's position, noting that "employees go home on a Friday night, they switch off and that's them till Monday and farmers don't get that. We live and breathe on the place that we're renting and it is our livelihood as well as our life, and they don't seem to get that sometimes. So when we take things a bit personally, it's because there are impacting us on a day-to-day basis."

Most interviewees felt that they had done their best to work with the landlord and "tried to be positive" and that they "have done everything they [the landlord] have asked us to do". Despite many of the tenants having some negative comments regarding their landlord a couple were more content, with one noting that the "relationship is quite favourable both ways" and that there was "very little" more the landlord could have done to support them.



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