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Land Tenure in Wisconsin Agriculture: Still Keeping the Farm in the Family?
ATFFI Publications No. 3 research report, June 1995
by Jess Gilbert and Thomas M. Beckley

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Gilbert and Beckley's research on landlord tenant relations in Lafayette and Manitowoc counties is particularly important and interesting because their study design involved a restudy of townships that were originally investigated by UW College of Agriculture researchers during the 1940s at the height of concern about the "tenancy problem." Their data thus permit measures of change that are extremely rare in farm structure research.

Gilbert and Berkley's results show that while tenancy has historically been associated with rural poverty and unequal power relations, this is not generally the case in rural Wisconsin. Their data shows that landlord-tenant relations in Wisconsin tend to be mutually satisfactory and consensual. Rental rates have tended to be reasonable. In fact, Gilbert and Beckley report that elderly and small-scale landlords may not have much bargaining power vis-a-vis large-scale part-owner tenants and that rental income is seldom adequate to fully support a retired farm family. The predominant tendency is for tenants to have entrepreneurial autonomy over management of these rented lands.