For landowner Jamie Ulrich, it started with a letter in the mail. Then there were a few phone calls, and one day last winter Ulrich found a note hanging from the doorknob of his Clearfield County farmhouse. The letters and calls were from gas and energy companies that wanted to lease Ulrich’s land to explore for underground natural gas. “I thought there was some mistake,” says Ulrich, who works for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s State Conservation Commission. “I didn’t think we were in typical gas country.”
In January 2008 Ulrich and his wife, Annie, were offered $50 an acre to lease their sixty-one-acre farm, and they considered signing. They talked to neighbors who were getting offers. After attending an extension workshop, the Ulrichs decided to hold out for a better offer. “I went to an extension workshop and heard Tom Murphy speak, and I was impressed,” he says. “Folks like Tom have been a tremendous help. They’ve seen the trends, they’ve been to Texas and seen what’s happened there with the Barnett shale, they have the facts.
“Back in May, our offer was $800 an acre, and I thought, okay, now it’s time to sign. I called Tom, and he said, ‘Jamie, I think that’s a little light. Right now time is your friend.’ He gave us courage to hang in there.” The Ulrichs bided their time, and on October 1 they signed a five-year lease for $1500 per acre with 15 percent royalties on any gas that is extracted from their property. “It was definitely worth it to educate ourselves and get clear, objective information from extension,” Ulrich says. “It’s been a stressful time, but following extension’s advice to be patient paid off for us.”
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