Expanding the farm

By — on / Daily, Negotiation Skills

The PON Clearinghouse offers hundreds of role simulations, from two-party, single-issue negotiations to complex multi-party exercises.  Mountain View Farm is a two-party, multi-issue integrative negotiation between a farmer and a neighbor over the sale or lease of part of the neighbor’s land.

SCENARIO: A Vermont farmer somewhat interested in the possibility of expanding activities has considered going into maple syrup production, wood cutting, or increasing his cow herd. The farmer’s neighbor is a person from Boston who only comes up on occasional weekends and holidays and is currently interested in selling or leasing at least part of his property. In preliminary discussions, the two have differed significantly on their assessments of the land owned by the Bostonian, but have agreed to meet to discuss the situation further.

MECHANICS: This exercise is usually conducted one-on-one for about 45-60 minutes. With a bit more time, participants can be asked to spend some time drafting a written agreement. Communication with unresponsive parties can be explored in review by modeling a typically smart, but cautious Vermont farmer of few words. Review should take from 60-90 minutes. Asking each participant silently to jot down the points of their agreement usually highlights the imprecision and ambiguity of most oral negotiations.


  • Role specific:
    Confidential instructions for the:
    • Owner
    • Farmer
  • Teacher’s package:
    • All of the above
    • Draft teaching note

PROCESS THEMES: agenda control; BATNA; closure; commitment; creativity; information exchange; interest analysis; interests, dovetailing; joint gains; managing uncertainty; objective criteria; options, generating; pareto optimization.


This negotiation focuses squarely on interests, options, and objective criteria. Positional bargaining is virtually certain to leave large potential joint gains unrealized. On the other hand, there is the challenge of engaging in joint brainstorming without unintentionally committing oneself.

While a variety of options seem likely to be of mutual benefit, most require additional information for full analysis and decision-making. This raises nice questions of how to structure contingent decisions under uncertainty, and how to build in appropriate incentives for objective information-gathering.

Poorly thought out agreements often ignore important unknowns and details of implementation. Clear thinking suggests setting realistic expectations about what can be accomplished in the meeting. Agreements will tend to vary dramatically in their scope.

To purchase this role simulation, click here.

The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School
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