How to Read a Parcel Legal Description


If you have just inherited farmland, are considering investing in farmland, or just curious about agriculture, you may have seen legal descriptions of farms that you can’t quite understand or been given a plat map with new terms to look over. This may be a confusing exercise if you are new to agriculture and don’t know the difference between township, section, and range. In this post we will show you how to read and understand parcel descriptions and how to read a legal description of farm land.

What is a Township and a Section?

Township is an area measured 6 miles x 6 miles

Each Township is broken into 36 sections, each 1 mile x 1 mile

  • 1 Section = 640 acres
  • ½ Section = 320 acres
  • ¼ Section = 160 acres
  • ¼ ¼ Section (quarter-quarter section) = 40 acres

The Section-Township-Range (plus County and State), e.g. SEC 14, T2S, R3W,  will tell you exactly which 1mi x 1mi square of land a parcel is on. The remainder of the parcel legal description (e.g. S 1/2 SW 1/4) will help you identify where within the Section-Township-Range the parcel is located. 

Public Land Survey System - Tillable

What is the Township and Range?

The Township and associated range tells you which 6mi x 6mi area the farm is in, and within that Township Range, the Section tells you which 1×1 square the farm is in.

Township is a East-West measure and Range is a North-South measure, starting from a specified location – each state may use a different Principal Meridian (longitudinal reference) and Base Line (latitudinal reference) as a starting point for their Township / Range. 

For example, T1N R1E would be the 6×6 block immediately to the NE of the intersection of a specific meridian and base. 

What is a Section?

Sections are the thirty-six 1mi x 1mi blocks within a Township Range (each section is 640 acres). They are numbered within a Township Range as below:

Within each section are four ‘quarter sections’, labeled using traditional compass directions as below:

Sub-section descriptions

Within the quarter section we need to be able to identify the location of the parcel itself. The parcel legal description will always start with the location within a quarter section, followed by the location of the quarter section within the section

For instance, S ½ SE ¼ of Sec 10, T83N, R23W would be: 

  • An 80 acre tract on the south half of the southeast quarter of Section 10, in Township 83 North, Range 23 West. Within the section that would be the grayed out tract below:

One more example – SE ¼ NE ¼ of Sec 28, T84N, R35W:

  • 40 acre tract (quarter-quarter section) on southeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 28, in Township 84 North, Range 35 West

How to write/present a parcel legal description of property

At Tillable, we want to keep our formatting consistent for ease of use for our users. Examples of the standard Tillable format for a parcel legal description are:

S1/2 NW1/4, S3 T26N R5E

W1/2 NE1/4 & SE1/4 NE1/4 & E1/2 NW1/4 – S27 T42N R5E


Now that you are a pro at reading and understanding farm parcel legal descriptions, you may be interested in the process of selling farmland. Luckily we have written “The Ultimate Guide To Selling Farmland” blog post. Learn who you need to talk to, how to access the information you need to collect, the different ways you could sell your farmland, and how Tillable can help you see historic, comparable farm sales near your farm for free.


Your free Market Analysis will include:

• Recommended asking price
• Recent farm sales in your area
• How your farm compares to other farms based on price, soil quality, and more

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