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definitions - TENANT FARMER

tenant farmer (n.)

1.a farmer who works land owned by someone else

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Tenant farmer


A tenant farmer is one who resides on and farms land owned by a landlord. Tenant farming is an agricultural production system in which landowners contribute their land and often a measure of operating capital and management; while tenant farmers contribute their labor along with at times varying amounts of capital and management. Depending on the contract, tenants can make payments to the owner either of a fixed portion of the product, in cash or in a combination. The rights the tenant has over the land, the form, and measure of the payment varies across systems (geographically and chronologically). In some systems, the tenant could be evicted at whim (tenancy at will); in others, the landowner and tenant sign a contract for a fixed number of years (tenancy for years or indenture). In most developed countries today, at least some restrictions are placed on the rights of landlords to evict tenants under normal circumstances.


  England and Wales

Historically, rural society utilised a three tier structure of landowners (nobility, gentry, yeomanry), tenant farmers, and farmworkers. Originally, tenant farmers were known as peasants. If they were bonded to the land, they were also villeins, but otherwise they were free tenants. Many tenant farmers were affluent and socially well connected, and employed a substantial number of labourers and managing more than one farm, land which could either be owned in perpetuity or rotated by the owners.[1] Cottiers (cottagers) held much less land.[2]

By the 19th century about 90% of land area and holdings were tenanted but these figures have declined markedly since World War II, to around 60% in 1950 and only 35% of land area in 1994.[3] High rates of inheritance taxes in the postwar period led to the breakup or reduction of many large estates, allowing many tenants to buy their holdings at favourable tenanted prices.

The landmark 1948 Act was enacted at a time when war-time food rationing was still in force and sought to encourage long term investment by tenants by granting them lifetime security of tenure. Under the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 security was extended to spouses and relatives of tenants for two successions, providing that they had been earning the majority of their income from the holding for five years. Succession rights were however withdrawn for new tenancies in 1984 and this was consolidated in the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986. These two statutes also laid down rules for the determination of rents by the arbitration process.[3][4] The 1986 statute covered tenancies over agricultural land where the land was used for a trade or business and the definition of "agriculture" in section 96(1) was wide enough to include various uses that in themselves were not agricultural but were deemed so if ancillary to agriculture (e.g. woodlands). The essence of the code was to establish complex constraints on the landlord's ability to give notice to quit, whilst also converting fixed term tenancies into yearly tenancies at the conclusion of the fixed term. In addition, there was a uniform rent ascertainment scheme contained in section 12.

It became difficult to obtain new tenancies as a result of landlords' reluctance to have a tenant protected by the 1986 Act and in 1995 the government of the day, with the support of industry organisations, enacted a new market-oriented code in the form of the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. The protection of the 1986 Act remains in respect of tenancies created prior to the existence of the 1995 Act, and for those tenancies falling within section 4 of the 1995 Act. For all other tenancies granted on or after 1 September 1995 their regulation is within the 1995 Act framework.

That Act was altered with effect from 18 October 2006 by the Regulatory Reform (Agricultural Tenancies)(England and Wales) Order 2006 SI 2006/2805, which also contains changes to the 1986 Act. Tenancies granted after 18 October 2006 over agricultural land used for a trade or business will fall within the limited protection of the 1995 Act so as to enjoy (provided the term is more than two years in length or there is a yearly tenancy) a mandatory minimum twelve months written notice to quit, including in respect of fixed terms. There is for all tenancies within the scope of the Act a mandatory tenants' right to remove fixtures and buildings (section 8) together with compensation for improvements (Part III). The rent review provisions in Part II may be the subject of choice to a much greater extent than previously. Disputes under the Act are usually, by the terms of Part IV, the subject of statutory arbitration controlled by the framework of the Arbitration Act 1996.

The current regime for regulating tenancies, commonly known as the Farm Business Tenancy, offers a fixed term between landlord and tenant. In the cycle of animal husbandry and land use and improvement, the long term effect on the landscape of Britain is not yet proven. It was predicted by landowners and other industry spokesmen that the 1995 Act would create opportunities for new tenants by allowing large areas of new lettings but this has not happened in practice as most landowners have continued to favour share farming or management agreements over formal tenancies and the majority of new lettings under the Act have been to existing farmers, often owner-occupiers taking on extra land at significantly higher rents than could be afforded by a traditional tenant.[3]


Tenant farming immigrants came to Canada not just from the British Isles but also the United States of America.[5]


Until about 1900, the majority of Ireland was held by landlords, as much as 97% in 1870, and rented out to tenant farmers who had to pay rent to landlords and taxes to the Church and State. The majority of the people had no access to land. 1.5% of the population owned 33.7% of the nation, and 50% of the country was in the hands of only 750 families. Absenteeism was common and detrimental to the country's progress. Tenants often sub-rented small plots on a yearly basis from local farmers paying for them by labour service in a system known as conacre most without any lease or land rights. Irish smallholders were indistinguishable from the cottiers of England.[6][7]

The abuse of tenant farmers led to widespread emigration to the United States and Commonwealth realms and was a key factor within the Home Rule Movement.[8] They also underlined a deterioration in Protestant-Catholic relationships,[9] although there were notable elements of cooperation in reform attempts such as the Tenant Right League of the 1850s.[10] Following the Potato Famine tenant farmers were the largest class of people.[11] Discontent led to the Land War of the 1870s onwards, the Irish Land Acts of 1870, the founding of the Land League 1879 to establish fair rents and the fixity of tenures. The movement played a key element in the unification of country and urban classes and the creation of a national identity.[12][13] not existing before.[10]

The Land Act of 1870 stands out at the first attempt to resolve problems of tenants rights in Ireland[8] and the 1881 Act went even further to inspire campaigners even in Wales. The Irish Land (Purchase) Act 1885 followed, finally the great break through after the successful 1902 Land Conference, the enactment of the Wyndham Land (Purchase) Act 1903 whereby the state financed tenants to completely buy out their landlords. Under the Act of 1903, and the consequential Act of 1909, the national situation was completely transformed. When in March 1920, the Irish Estate Commission reviewed the development since 1903 under these Acts, they estimated that 83 million sterling had been advanced for 9 million acres (36,000 km2) transferred, whilst a further 2 million acres (8,100 km2) were pending costing 24 million sterling.[14] By 1914, 75% of occupiers were buying out their landlords, mostly under the two Acts. In all, under the pre-UK Land Acts over 316,000 tenants purchased their holdings amounting to 11,500,000 acres (47,000 km2) out of a total of 20 million in the country.[15]

On the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922, the Irish Land Commission was reconstituted by the Land Law (Commission) Act, 1923.[16] The Commission had acquired and supervised the transfer of up to 13 million acres (53,000 km2) of farmland between 1885 and 1920 where the freehold was assigned under mortgage to tenant farmers and farm workers. The focus had been on the compulsory purchase of untenanted estates so that they could be divided into smaller units for local families. In 1983, the Commission ceased acquiring land; this signified the start of the end of the commission's reform of Irish land ownership, though freehold transfers of farmland still had to be signed off by the Commission into the 1990s. The commission was dissolved in March 1999.


In Japan, landowners turned over their land to families of tenant farmers to manage.[17] During the Meiji period, Japanese tenant farmers were traditionally cultivators rather than capitalistic or entrepreneurial venture by nature, paid in kind for their labors. Approximately 30% of land was held by tenants. Many aspects of Tokugawa feudalism continued.[18] After WWII, the Farm Land Reform Law of 1946 banned absentee landlordism, re-distributing land and permitted tenants to buy. By the 1950s, it virtually eliminated the landlord-tenant relationship.[19]


Historically, despite being part of the Scandinavian unions, the countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway had differing approaches to land tenure.[20][21]


Scotland has its own independent legal system and the legislation there differs from that of England and Wales. Neither the AHA 1986 nor the ATA 1995 apply in Scotland. The relevant legislation for Scotland is rather the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991 and the Agriculture (Scotland) Act 1948.[4]

  United States

Tenant farming has been important in the U.S.A. from the 1870s to the present. Tenants typically bring their own tools and animals. It is distinguished from both being a "hired hand" and being a sharecropper. It is also used in a racially insulting way.

A hired hand is an agricultural employee even though he or she may live on the premises and exercise a considerable amount of control over the agricultural work, such as a foreman. A sharecropper is a farm tenant who pays rent with a portion (often half) of the crop he raises and who brings little to the operation besides his family labor; the landlord usually furnishing working stock, tools, fertilizer, housing, fuel, and seed, and often providing regular advice and oversight.

Tenant farming was historically a step on the "agricultural ladder" from hired hand or sharecropper taken by young farmers as they accumulated enough experience and capital to buy land (or buy out their siblings when a farm was inherited.) In the 1920, many came from Japan to the West Coast states.[22]

  See also


  1. ^ Baker, Alan R. H.; Butlin, Robin Alan (1973). Studies of Field Systems in the British Isles. London: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521201217. 
  2. ^ Lang, James; Zandstra, Hubert G. (2001). Notes of a Potato Watcher. Texas A&M University Agriculture Series. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 1585441384. 
  3. ^ a b c Gibbard, Ravenscroft and Reeves (1997). "Agricultural Tenancy Reform: The End of Law; or a New Popular Culture?". Reading University. http://www.reading.ac.uk/LM/LM/fulltxt/0397.pdf. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Agricultural tenancies: Overview of the legislation 1948 to 1995". HM Revenue and Customs. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/ihtmanual/IHTM24211.htm. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  5. ^ Bicha, K. D. (1965). "The Plains Farmer and the Prairie Province Frontier, 1897-1914". Journal of Economic History 25 (2): 263–270. DOI:10.1017/S0022050700056655. 
  6. ^ Winstanley, M. J. (1984). Ireland and the Land Question 1800-1922. London: Methuen. ISBN 0416374204. 
  7. ^ Clark, Samuel (1978). "The Importance of Agrarian Classes: Agrarian Class Structure and Collective Action in Nineteenth-Century Ireland". British Journal of Sociology 29 (1): 22–40. JSTOR 589217. 
  8. ^ a b Kearney, Hugh F. (1989). The British Isles: A History of Four Nations. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521334209. 
  9. ^ Miller, Kerby A. (1985). Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195035941. 
  10. ^ a b Connolly, S. J. (1997). "Culture, Identity and Tradition". In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415150078. 
  11. ^ Drudy, P. J. (1982). Ireland: Land, Politics, and People. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052124577X. 
  12. ^ Brockliss, L. W. B.; Eastwood, David (1997). A Union of Multiple Identities: The British Isles, c1750-c1850. New York: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0719050464. 
  13. ^ Biagini, Eugenio F. (2007). British Democracy and Irish Nationalism, 1876-1906. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521841764. 
  14. ^ Lyons, F. S. L.: pp.234-5
  15. ^ Ferriter, Diarmaid: pp. 62-63
  16. ^ Land Law (Commission) Act, 1923
  17. ^ Smith, Thomas Carlyle (1990) [1954]. The Agrarian Origins of Modern Japan (Reprint ed.). Stanford: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804705305. 
  18. ^ Norman, E. Herbert; Woods, Lawrence T. (2000). Japan's Emergence As a Modern State: Political and Economic Problems of the Meiji Period (60th anniversary ed.). Vancouver: UBC Press. ISBN 0774808225. 
  19. ^ Hane, Mikiso (1982). Peasants, Rebels, Women, and Outcastes: The Underside of Modern Japan. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 0394519639. 
  20. ^ Tønnesson, Kåre (1981). "Tenancy, Freehold and Enclosure in Scandinavia from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century". Scandinavian Journal of History 6 (1–4): 191–206. DOI:10.1080/03468758108578990. 
  21. ^ Høgsæt, R. (1992). "‘Their Ancestral Lands’ – Succession Rights of Norwegian Tenants in the 16th and 17th Centuries". Scandinavian Journal of History 17 (2–3): 167–173. DOI:10.1080/03468759208579235. 
  22. ^ Suzuki, Masao (1995). "Success Story? Japanese Immigrant Economic Achievement and Return Migration, 1920–1930". Journal of Economic History 55 (4): 889–901. DOI:10.1017/S0022050700042200. 

  Further reading

  British Isles

  • Solow, Barbara (1972). The Land Question and the Irish Economy, 1870–1903. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674508750. 
  • Taylor, Henry C. (1955). "Food and Farm Land in Britain". Land Economics 31 (1): 24–34. JSTOR 3159797. 
  • Winstanley, Michael J. (1984). Ireland and the Land Question 1800–1922. London: Methuen. ISBN 0416374204. 
  • Buttress, F. A. (1950). Agricultural Periodicals of the British Isles, 1681–1900, and Their Location. Cambridge: University of Cambridge, School of Agriculture. 
  • Nicholls, Mark (1999). A History of the Modern British Isles, 1529–1603: The Two Kingdoms. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0631193332. 


  • Atack, Jeremy (1989). "The Agricultural Ladder Revisited: A New Look at an Old Question with Some Data for 1860". Agricultural History 63 (1): 1–25. JSTOR 3743972. 
  • Atack, Jeremy (1988). "Tenants and Yeomen in the Nineteenth Century". Agricultural History 62 (3): 6–32. JSTOR 3743206. 
  • Grubbs, Donald H. (1971). Cry from the Cotton: The Southern Tenant Farmer's Union and the New Deal. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807811564. 
  • Hurt, R. Douglas (2003). African American Life in the Rural South, 1900–1950. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0826214711. 
  • Sothworth, Caleb (2002). "Aid to Sharecroppers: How Agrarian Class Structure and Tenant-Farmer Politics Influenced Federal Relief in the South, 1933–1935". Social Science History 26 (1): 33–70. DOI:10.1215/01455532-26-1-33. 
  • Turner, Howard A. (1937). "Farm Tenancy Distribution and Trends in the United States". Law and Contemporary Problems 4 (4): 424–433. JSTOR 1189524. 
  • Virts, Nancy (1991). "The Efficiency of Southern Tenant Plantations, 1900–1945". Journal of Economic History 51 (2): 385–395. JSTOR 2122582. 


  • Allen, D. W.; Lueck, D. (1992). "Contract Choice in Modern Agriculture: Cash Rent versus Cropshare". Journal of Law and Economics 35 (2): 397–426. JSTOR 725546. 
  • Liebowitz, Jonathan J. (1989). "Tenants, Sharecroppers, and the French Agricultural Depression of the Late Nineteenth Century". Journal of Interdisciplinary History 19 (3): 429–445. JSTOR 204363. 
  • Matsuoka, K. (1930). "The Peasant Worker in Japan". Pacific Affairs 3 (12): 1109–1117. JSTOR 2750255. 
  • Udo, R. K. (1964). "The Migrant Tenant Farmer of Eastern Nigeria". Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 34 (4): 326–339. JSTOR 1157473. 


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