Finding the perfect property for your dream farm requires asking the right questions of the current owner.
Photo By Fotolia/Little Tomato Studio
Purchasing the right property for your dream farm is a
difficult decision with plenty of varying factors to consider. For our Facebook
question of the week, we asked you, “If you've managed to buy a small farm,
what advice would you give to others who want to do the same?” and here is what
you told us.
Peterson Animals and gardens depend on water. Understand where yours
will come from and what legal limitations are on its use. Study your state’s
water laws before you select your property.
Elisa Hahn Boe Test
your water for quality and availability. Some water is bad enough it can't be
fixed and a farmstead that hauls in water won't last long. And, if you have no
water pressure, or a very low water table in the summer, you will regret your
Julia Ford Bolin Have the
property surveyed so you know where your boundaries are located.
Joybilee Farm Talk to the
neighbors about their gardens and find out how many frost-free days you can
expect. Make sure there is a good source of water and that the water is
year-round, not seasonal. Make sure the place is zoned for livestock.
Colleen Hajek My advice is to buy
land in a gorgeous state, full of nearby recreational activities and beauty,
because you won’t be able to get away often. At least the beauty and
recreational activities will be within close driving distance.
Leeann Fitzell Coleman Don’t buy
more land than you can manage. Ask lots of questions. Read blogs — bloggers who
are farmers are honest and open about their mistakes. Join local ag
organizations. I recently bought an 11-acre, foreclosed farm in New Jersey — it took me
18 months to find it.
Davis Sample I haven't bought the farm, yet (so to speak), but I would say,
“be realistic, and take your time.”
N Dina Johnson Make a list of your wants and don’t-wants for the property
you’re looking for. That way, you and your family are all agreeing on what it
is that will work best for all of you.
Patrick Clark After nearly 25 years of sacrifice, we bought a three-acre
property to grow our own food. The operative word is sacrifice. Too many people
don't like that word today. I suggest then that they think of it as an
investment in their future to forego things they don't need now to fulfill
their dream down the road. I hate being told that we are "lucky" when
it was sacrifice and hard work that got us to our little three acres...not
luck! I'd tell them be prepared to work. Do it right the first time because it
is time consuming and costs more to do things over.
Patrick Young Things are
different in the country. There are few services and not many jobs available.
Job skills in the country are different; you may need to take a job that you
consider to be menial. Can you buy a property, develop the lifestyle you want
and live on one-half to one-third of your current wages? Plan to have enough
money to live for a year without an income, while you get things going.
Anne Dixon Look for land after a
good rain to see how much water stands. Good soil and growing seasons are
important. We live on a farm in an area that can get two garden plantings a
year — one summer, one fall. Our animals thrive in the milder climate. Colder
places use lots of energy to keep both homes and animals warm.
Jennifer Robinson Be careful
about buying property with easements — particularly if there are a lot of
things, such as pipelines, cables, etc., buried underground. These buried lines
can greatly inhibit your ability to dig and plant, and to put up structures.
Patrick Young Be cautious of
owner financing. Have a title search done in order to find out the owner’s
ability to transfer ownership. Are there liens on the property? Do they have
water rights? Are there mineral rights? Are there tax liens, property tax, IRS
liens, any other liens? (I have bought properties like this, using owner
financing, but I always hired an attorney and an appraiser.) What is the market
value? Are the terms similar to what I could get from a lender?
Saddleback Mountain Farm I am on year 10 of
homesteading, farming — living authentically. Here are my thoughts: Buy land
that is at least partially cleared. Know how to work with your hands. Be able
and willing to buy the highest quality tools. Build the best fences money can
buy. Do not bring on animals until you are ready, and being ready means
housing, fencing, water, power and patience. Remember that animals grow up and
get old, get out, destroy things, make noise, stink, run away and can’t be
reasoned with. Start with a small garden; things do not grow if the seeds are
not planted. Deer can jump high, and rabbits and groundhogs can get low. Place
your garden where you can see it; if you can’t see your garden, you will slight
it countless times. All hoes are not created equal; buy Eliot Coleman’s hoes.
Enough. I could write about this all afternoon. Remember this, friends: Small
farms matter big.
Woodmark I live on 3 acres just outside of a city with lots of events and
within a few hours drive of the mountains, hot springs, and ocean so my situation is
perfect. But owning a farm, especially if you have animals, is like owning a
child and if you have animals that need milking then you have to milk twice
each and every day or else your animal will get mastitis. You can never leave
your farm for a day unless you have someone to house sit and take care of the
animals. Make friends with a neighbor or through your local feed store where
lots of farm kids post their willingness to care for your animals for a fee and
these kids know what they are doing because they are farm kids, too.
Burris Make sure that you design a home with your needs in mind, and not
wants. A new home today should be designed to be just as energy efficient as
possible, and extra funds that would be used on a larger, fancier home, should
be allotted to off-grid energy. I think it is silly for one to consider a home
without a barn or garage. The building can be used for many things, and is
certainly a lot cheaper than the construction costs associated with living area
in a house. Also, have your whole site map on paper to determine a place for all your needs, including that house,
outbuildings, gardens (both vegetable and ornamental), and pasture.
Kelly Stevens Decide on what you actually want to do on your farm or land.
Then look at areas that are suitable for your needs or can be worked round.
Look at your out buildings and the type of soil and whether it’s suitable. Do
you need to spend a lot to get it right? If you’re not happy with the house,
the rest is pointless. Chat with the locals to see what they grow or do with
their land. Make sure you know your boundaries of the property — walk the
perimeter. Do your homework and you should be ok.
Mark Mauney Inspired by MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we did this on a shoestring
back in 1982. We've made more bad decisions than good ones over the years but I
wouldn't trade all of the hard times and dead ends for anything. My advice is
1: Seek a good balance of fundamentals (soil quality, timber, pasture, water,
climate, road access), low property taxes, minimal regulations and decent local
employment opportunities. Central Arkansas fit
the bill perfectly when we moved here in '83. 2: Plan the long-range projects
carefully (building and infrastructure placement). 3: Don's skimp on quality -
even if it takes longer to achieve.( i.e. I have been building a small
barn/workshop at $50/week for over a year and it is only a quarter complete -
but far surpasses any previous attempts at quick and shoddy outbuildings I
thought I should settle for). 4: Start a Facebook group for the area you're
interested in to encourage dialogue among your future regional neighbors.
"Arkansas Agrarian" on Facebook has been an inspiration — an
encouragement — and a source of new similarly-minded friends.
Gary Beaulieu Every day complete
a major task. Set small goals — it involves hard work and patience. If you’ve
never had a garden before, don’t plant an acre. Don’t be afraid to ask
Mike Ellis I am
not there, not even close, but making the best of the three acres we have (just
added goats). I'd say make a list of all the wants and needs, and then see
where you can do those things legally with minimal hassle, that should help
narrow the search. I also agree about having the things you want to do and need
nearby as you will not have the luxury of time to travel too far with having to
maintain the homestead.
Lee Launsby We have two acres that we’re trying to clear enough so we can
do a big garden. We have rabbits and are going to get a small pool to grow our
own fish. Having our house and land paid for helps a lot. We want a well. And
solar power may be a while, but something to work toward having. The best
advice is to start when you’re young enough to do the work.
Barbara Clark Be
careful especially if you are moving to a new area. Do lots of research and see
how welcoming the locals are, some small towns do not welcome, nor do they
support new people moving in.
Jeri Karason Know
how to and be fit enough to work without modern equipment. Learn the skills and
collect the tools to repair old machinery by yourself.
Chuck Olliney Never
give up. It took us many years, but we found it. Plan to do a lot of the work
yourself. We have had our property for five years, now. We get a little
discouraged, but it’s the best life there is. Our kids and grandkids love it.
Micronized Yes water and road. If your road isn't good, fall, winter and
early spring will be a nightmare. I have to rock my road every two years and
fill a spare 2,500 gallon tank for emergency water.
Gotta Love the
Country - Our Farm Look for something that
satisfies the needs of the entire family. We knew we wanted to raise a few
animals and have a garden and also knew we wanted to be away from the road, to
be somewhat secluded. When we began looking, this place was perfect for us. We
found a house off the road, on about four acres that already had some fruit
trees, grapevines and a perfect garden spot. When we drove up the drive, we
knew right away we wanted it. Not as big as we wanted, but to be truthful, I
don't think we could handle much more. We have room for the kids to roam
somewhat freely and play outside - away from the road, we have privacy, we have
enough room to have a few goats and chickens, and we have a fabulous garden! I
think you just have to know what you want, what you can handle and what your
Bealles If you are moving to the country, remember, it will not have the
services that you depended on in town. We moved into the country 40 years ago.
The township supervisors were farmers. There was never any grief. Then a bunch
of folks moved in that were from the city, and wanted city services. They just
about ruined the area before cooler heads turned things around. We have laws to
protect everyone in the township, not just those that think that everywhere
should be like downtown. Subscribe to MOTHER EARTH NEWS and any rural self-help book you can find. Look for garden
and house plans before attempting it by your self. Search the internet for the
gems of knowledge that will benefit you and yours. Relish in the joy of raising
your own veggies. Try a few chickens for eggs and meat. Use a goat to clear brush
for a garden. Did you know that a lot of 4-H kids will lend out a goat for
field clearing? Remember that the Earth is fragile. Buy second-hand goods,
recycle, save rain water, compost, mulch and share the wealth of your garden
with your neighbors and those less fortunate.
Chavez Be aware of the hydrology, topography and
soil conditions on land you’re considering. Find out what the climate is like
as well as the length of the growing season for that area. Know how you will
facilitate providing water to livestock. Visit the land several times and if
possible do so at least once after a heavy period of rain to note any areas
prone to flooding. Drive the boundaries to know who your neighbors are and what
they do with their land. Know the flora and fauna of the area; survey for
noxious plants or predators. A new farm can be an exciting experience but it
can also be your worst nightmare if you don't plan ahead.
McKay Good phone service is a must. Look for good road care, closeness to
supplies and be ready to be at the whim of Mother Nature. Remember: Good fences
make for good neighbors. Goats climb; cows will go thru a fence and go thru it
again when being put back in. Have a good dog or two to patrol the property and
to help herd those determined to-be-elsewhere critters. Don't be afraid to ask
for help or to accept it when offered.
Paul Huckett Excellent
supply of potable water, fertile soil, the ability to work physically hard for
10-12 hours a day and close proximity to the services of a reasonably sized
town. If you are too remote, your kids will spend hours on buses and you'll
drive hours to shop or visit the doctor etc.
Simmons Do research into the water and soil quality in the area. Also check
with township on taxes. They can really increase after buying from the original
Thank you to all those who submitted your great ideas.
Answer more questions of the week at MOTHER EARTH NEW’s Facebook page.
To learn more about finding the perfect property for
your dream farm, read Finding Your Place.