The contribution focuses on the economies of farming families in the Late Middle Ages that have been researched in recent works about ecclesiastical and secular landowners in Northern Switzerland. It was common for landlords to confer farmsteads as entails – meaning the farms would pass automatically from the tenant to his direct descendants. This gave tenant farmers a great amount of freedom in choosing how to use the land. Many farming families handled their affairs over generations as if they were de facto owners of the property. Land owners may thereby have run the risk of losing their claim to an estate, but the system certainly encouraged tenant farmers to act on their own initiative, as evidenced in forms of cooperation between landlords and tenants in matters of maintenance and agricultural production. Secular landowners in particular took active steps to foster profit-oriented farming among their tenants, for instance by participating in costs and granting loans – in monetary form and in kind – for wine and cattle farming. Such loans, however, also led to increasing economic dependency on the part of the farming families concerned, in addition to their legal dependency. In the day-to-day relations between the farmers and their landlords, cooperation and conflict were never far apart. Conditions had to be renegotiated on an ongoing basis.