These Are the Top Ten Best States for Farmland in the US

Montana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming offer the most affordable farmland, but Bill Gates prefers his tracts out in Iowa, North Dakota, and California.

Updated Jul 30, 2023

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Passive Income

Real Estate

Forget Wall Street—have you thought about making your millions in rural Iowa?

There's a reason Bill Gates is the largest private owner of farmland in the country: it's a great investment. Not only is farmland one of the most stable and secure assets you can add to your portfolio, but it also offers a range of diversification benefits. We all need to eat, even in times of economic uncertainty, making it a recession-resistant asset that can help you preserve wealth during a market crash. What's more, farm income tends to go up when prices rise, making it a popular inflation hedge.

Not only does this investment have the potential to offer growth in the form of land value appreciation, but you can also earn passive income through crop yields and rental income.

Before you start buying up tractors and fertilizer, though, you have to decide where you want to buy farmland. Some states offer beautiful farmland, but the cost of operating a farm is high, while others offer cheap farmland that doesn't produce much in the way of income. You want a solid balance of both to maximize your return on investment (ROI). With that in mind, here are the best states for farmland in 2021.

Map of 2022 cropland values per acre and percentage change from 2021 by U.S. state.

The best states for farmland

When you're looking for the best states for farmland in the U.S., you want to consider a range of factors: the state's top agricultural products and their profitability, the cost of farmland (as well as property taxes and the cost and availability of labor), rural infrastructure, and the availability of farmland.

We weighed each of these factors equally, using the USDA's 2022 land values research and LawnStarter's 2021 Best States to Start a Farm study as resources, to develop this list of the ten best states for farmland. Let's dig in.


  • Cropland value per acre: $1,160
  • High season / low season: May to September / October to April
  • Total farmland area: 59.8 million acres (63% of total land)
  • Most valuable product: Cattle

Coming in at the lowest cost per acre, Montana is one of the best states for farmland if you're looking to buy more land with less money. Farmland investors know it, too—it had the second-largest increase in number of farms last year, so hop on the deals in big sky country while you still can.

According to the USDA, the average farmland real estate value per acre across the entire U.S. was $3,160 in 2020 and $3,800 in 2022, but the latest data shows that farmland is selling for $1,030 per acre in Montana—less than half the national average.

While a plot of land isn't worth anywhere near as much in Montana as it would be in, say, California, getting in at a seriously low price point means potential for a higher ROI. When it comes to cultivating the land to add value, wheat and beef are some of Montana's biggest commodities, along with sheep and wool, so ranching is a popular option.


  • Cropland value per acre: $2,950
  • High season / Low season: April to October / November to March
  • Total farmland area: 46 million acres (88% of total land)
  • Most valuable product: Cattle 

Kansas is one of the most attractive places to invest in farmland thanks to its viability and well-developed rural infrastructure. It's the country's leader in grain production and one of the top producers of wheat as well. About 90% of the sunflower state's land is dedicated to farming.

Land in the most productive areas of Kansas won't come cheaply, but farm income has been on the rise in this state for the past couple of years, thanks to increases in grain prices. Cropland values, in particular, have jumped in recent years, so when it comes to the best states for farmland, this is one you want to get into sooner rather than later.


  • Cropland value per acre: $2,250
  • High season / Low season: April to September / October to March
  • Total farmland area: 34.2 million acres (77% of total land)
  • Most valuable product: Cattle

Oklahoma currently sits at the lowest cost per acre among the best states for farmland in the U.S., so this is another state with farmland you can invest in at a low price point. Farm income is relatively low in Oklahoma, but it has the rural infrastructure and developed farmland communities needed to support growth.

As another top producer of wheat and cattle, Oklahoma is a great place to invest in wheat cropland and ranchland.

South Dakota

  • Cropland value per acre: $4,030
  • High season / Low season: April to October / November to March
  • Total farmland area: 43.3 million acres (89% of total land)
  • Most valuable products: Corn and soybeans

South Dakota is ranked in the top five best states for farmland in the U.S. regarding high farm income. Paired with a lower-than-average cost per acre of farmland ($2,600 versus the national average of $3,800), it's possible to squeeze a lot of value out of an investment in the Mount Rushmore state.

Farms in South Dakota tend to be much larger than your typical small family farm, and corn is one of the state's major agricultural products.

North Dakota

  • Cropland value per acre: $2,350
  • High season / Low season: May to October / November to April
  • Total farmland area: 39.3 million acres (89% of total land)
  • Most valuable products: Wheat and soybeans

Another state that produces some of the highest farm income in the land, North Dakota is a top producer of dry beans and honey. Farmland is even cheaper in North Dakota than South Dakota, making it one of the best states for farmland regarding ROI, especially because of the state's well-developed agricultural infrastructure.

This is another state where about 90% of the land is used for agriculture. The Red River Valley region of North Dakota is particularly known for its fertile soil. However, that's also where farmland prices are highest.


  • Cropland value per acre: $2,420
  • High season / Low season: March to November / December to February
  • Total farmland area: 130.2 million acres (84% of total land)
  • Most valuable product: Cattle

Texas is another affordable state for farmland, although prices have been increasing in recent years, especially for cropland. It's one of the best states for farmland if you're growing cotton, thanks to its lengthy hot seasons (nearly year-round) and lack of overcast weather. The lone star state is also a big producer of beef cattle.

The state of Texas also provides generous property tax exemptions for certain farmers and ranchers, making farmland even cheaper. Thanks to developed agricultural infrastructure, getting access to utilities in even the most rural of places shouldn't be a problem.


  • Cropland value per acre: $9,350
  • High season / Low season: April to October / November to March
  • Total farmland area: 30.5 million acres (85% of total land)
  • Most valuable products: Corn and soybeans

Iowa is one of the most popular states for investing in U.S. farmland for several reasons. For starters, this corn belt state is a leading producer of both corn and soybeans, the two most lucrative crops in the country. Another is that Iowa has some of the most sustainable farming practices of any state. The state also ranks top five in the nation for number of farm workers per capita, so finding labor is easy.

The lucrative nature of farming in Iowa also makes farmland very expensive in this state. The average cost per acre in 2022 is a towering $9,400, up from $7,070 in 2020, so unless you've got a lot of startup capital, you might want to look into more affordable ways to invest in sustainable agriculture in Iowa, such as crowdfunding.


  • Cropland value per acre: $5,000
  • High season / Low season: April to October / November to March
  • Total farmland area: 13 million acres (52% of total land)
  • Most valuable products: Cattle, tobacco, and soybeans

The cost of farmland in Kentucky is just slightly above the national average, but it's one of the best states for farmland if you're looking to grow tobacco or soybeans or raise livestock. Tobacco is a particularly profitable crop thanks to the high and resilient demand for tobacco products and the fact that tobacco is easy to grow. Tobacco plants are resilient under a range of different weather conditions.

Wheat and corn are also popular crops to grow in Kentucky, and thanks to the long list of bourbon distilleries in the state, there is always demand for these products.


  • Cropland value per acre: $1,720
  • High season / Low season: April to October / November to March
  • Total farmland area: 30.4 million acres (54% of total land)
  • Most valuable product: Cattle

If you believe bigger is better, Wyoming is one of the best states for farmland. They don't call it "Big Wyoming" for no reason—this state boasts the largest average farm size in the U.S. and the lowest cost per acre. On average, an acre of farmland in Wyoming will cost you just $850, less than one-fourth of the national average.

Wyoming also has some of the lowest property taxes in the country and no state income tax. All of this combined makes for high ROI potential.


  • Cropland value per acre: $15,410
  • High season / Low season: Year-round
  • Total farmland area: 25.3 million acres (25% of total land)
  • Most valuable products: Dairy and almonds

California is one of the most expensive states in the country, and this is certainly reflected by its farmland prices. On average, it'll cost you $12,000 per acre to buy farmland in the golden state, but there's still potential for significant ROI. This state is number one in the country for average per-farm income and boasts the most farm workers per capita in the U.S.

This west coast state is one of the country's largest producers of fruits, vegetables, and nuts—its farms grow two-thirds of the fruit in the U.S. It also produces over a third of the country's cannabis, one of the most profitable crops out there. However, California has the lowest average monthly precipitation of any state, and droughts could render its farmland in poor or mediocre condition.

How to invest in farmland without buying land

Suppose you're not quite ready to buy your own land. You should gather more startup cash or all the weighted metrics and labor statistics of existing farm communities before you invest. You might also want to read a farmland study to discover how profitable investing in it can ultimately be.

You may not have the agricultural knowledge necessary to grow profitable crops, or just don't want to deal with all the work that goes into operating a farm. There are plenty of ways to invest in farmland without buying a farm or gain exposure to residential and commercial real estate with REITs or eREITs.

Buying shares in the best farmland REITs or investing in the top agricultural ETFs are two easy ways to add farmland exposure to your portfolio today. Investing directly in farmland and reaping the full diversification benefits of this asset class is easy with platforms like FarmTogether that let you invest in a portion of an already operating farm that's already generating revenue.

Not only does this investment have the potential to offer growth in the form of land value appreciation, but you can also earn passive income through crop yields and rental income.

Is farmland a good investment?

Investing in farmland could be a promising venture, as agriculture is an essential industry needed to sustain the world's population. According to data from the National Transportation Research Nonprofit and labor statistics, the average annual wage for farmers and ranchers is competitive, although the rigorous work schedule and intense physical labor may not be among the most glamorous jobs.

However, environmental factors like air and water quality, regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and terrain conditions can transform farmland into fertile land that grows many crops. Meteorological data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also help farmers prepare for very hot days or very cold days affecting crop yield and livestock conditions.

The World Population Review and the National Center for Rural Health Information Hub concur that rural areas have the potential for sustainable agriculture with community-supported programs. They also underscore the need for proper infrastructure, like good roads for transportation, access to federal programs and subsidies from the USDA, and reliable energy sources, as noted by the Energy Information Administration.

Average cropland value in the United States from 2008 to 2022.

States like Montana have a suitable climate for farming and cheap farmland, making it a good option for those who want to start a farm. Most Montana farms are family-owned, but new farmers can still find numerous opportunities. However, aspiring farmers might face the challenge of integrating with highly developed infrastructure, especially for farmers oriented towards renewable energy like wind and solar power.

According to the USDA and Census Bureau, prospective farmers must also consider the number of farms, farmland area, and average per-farm productivity. The Nebraska and West Virginia departments are good places to look up state-specific farming data. The Tax Foundation’s data can guide investors about possible tax implications.

Yearly average numbers for overhead against ROI potential indicate that investing in farming may bring more money, but the weighted metrics listed must be studied carefully. The most well-researched assessments show that farmland investment has significantly risen in the past year.

Farming might be a challenging or conventional investment opportunity, but it holds potential given the right location, preparation, and approaches. With careful planning and preparation, factors such as population density, suitable climate, conditions set by USDA-approved slaughterhouses, number of farms in a state, rural health information, environmental considerations, and even disaster preparedness reports can all play a crucial role in making farmland a good investment.

Sustainable farming practices

The agriculture industry is one of the critical parts of our economy, but its activities can significantly affect our environment. Hence, it's of utmost importance to consider sustainable farming practices. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides guidelines for such practices, which focus on the long-term fertility of the land, optimal use of resources, and minimal impact on natural resources.

As advised by the Energy Information Administration, incorporating renewable energy sources, like solar and wind power, can considerably reduce overhead costs while decreasing reliance on fossil fuels. Community-supported agriculture is also gaining traction, as they promote locally grown produce, support local farmers, and drive sustainable practices. The USDA has also introduced federal programs to help new farmers adopt sustainable practices.

Favorable climate conditions, such as those found in Montana, alongside good infrastructure, can make sustainable farming easier. Several family-owned farms have successfully started farming on cheap land, working with community entities to adhere to rigorous work schedules for maintaining crop diversity. Despite not being categorized as the most glamorous jobs, such farming work is increasingly seen as essential, especially in the context of community health and environmental conservation.

Property taxes on farmland

Farmland ownership and operation come with its share of financial responsibilities, with property taxes being a significant part of it. The Tax Foundation has regularly published data indicating that tax rates can dramatically differ across various states. For instance, West Virginia offers relatively cheap land, but property taxes exist. However, Nebraska's Department of Revenue provides tax exemptions on certain farming-related structures and land improvements.

The National Transportation Research Nonprofit has highlighted that good infrastructure, including access to major roads, influences property values and property taxes on farmlands. Connections to the national center, rural areas, and population density are other factors that can impact the land's value and the tax rate on farmlands.

The past year has seen changes in laws, leading to a shift in property tax rates in several states, cushioning some of the biggest challenges farm owners face. The overall scores from the Tax Foundation's report underline the need for potential buyers to thoroughly consider property taxes when examining the ROI potential of farm investment. The secret to maximizing annual yield and overall profits from farm land investment lies in the choice of location, the type of crops grown, and understanding the property tax structure.

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