Targeting the Absent Market

The seat of management left empty by the absentee landowner.

The seat of management left empty by the absentee landowner.

When Dr. Giles told me Rural System would be targeting absentee landowners exclusively, I couldn’t help my surprise. Certainly organisms need a niche in the ecosystem and organizations need a niche in the market, but could there really be enough landowners in the absentee market? Or was it simply an absent market?

I quickly learned that “42% of the agricultural land in the U.S. is owned by absentee landowners.” It is likely some of this is already leased to farm operators, but some of the land is still unmanaged and umanned. These landowners are an ideal target for a hands-on land management endeavor like Rural System. 85% of absentee landowners in the U.S. are not involved in land management decisions, and 63% have never been farmers.  This suggests that these landowners are not interested in or prepared to manage the land themselves. Rural System would be prepared to take the responsibility off their shoulders. 

Rural System would further appeal to these landowners with its focus on enhancing the land and using the resources in a manner that would sustain profits and land health 150 years into the future.  Founded in scientifically sound data collection, geospatial mapping techniques, and prescriptive software, Rural System provides assurance that management decisions would be made according to the latest information and techniques. Such precision would likely appeal to absentee landowners, 70% of which have some college education. These individuals have also expressed that wildlife, soil, and water are their main concerns in regard to their land. It does not seem far fetched to think that these conservation-minded individuals would be impressed by a management system that takes care of their land and makes them profit as well.

It is clear this optimal market exists, but what really is absent is further data and information on this group of landowners other than what you see above. The number of absentee landowners can be estimated from USDA census of agriculture by how far landowners live from their property, but this information does not distinguish between types of landowners so it is of limited use.  The individual could have inherited the land and is in need of a manager, or could simply have purchased a vacation spot and is not at all interested in Rural System.  Until absentee landowners are better known, particularly in Appalachia, Rural System needs another target.

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About Laurel Sindewald

Laurel is an alumna of Warren Wilson College with a BS in Conservation Biology and a BA in Philosophy. She is a writer for Rural System, Inc.

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