Equipment sharing is the most common way that unrelated farmers work together, says Iowa State University Extension economist Georgeanne Artz, author of several case studies on sharing arrangements.

Family groups usually go together to buy inputs and supplies, too, she says, but collective buying seems to be less common among groups of unrelated farmers who work together. Her surveys suggest that loyalty to local dealers trumps volume discounts.

“Personal relationships with dealers and suppliers are really important to farmers.”