Finding "Free" Hometead Land

Buying a large spread, dividing it into a small piece and a larger piece, and selling the larger piece enabled one couple to obtain what was essentially free homestead land.

| November/December 1978

My wife, Fran, and I own 36.5 acres of land plus farm buildings. The property contains a spring-fed, year-round creek; 10 acres of bottomland surrounded by 15 acres of woods; and pastures, sandy hills, and fencerows. It's a small farm filled with secret places that we share with hawks, owls, deer, and muskrats. And, best of all, the place didn't really cost us anything. We, in effect, got it for free.

How We Did It

We actually started toward our present, pleasant "landholder for free" status a few seasons back. That was when we purchased 120 acres with $20,000 down and a land contract for the remaining $34,000, payable at $1,000 a year on the principal and 5% interest on the balance.

What? You say you don't have $20,000? Well, we didn't either until we'd saved for several years. And the amount is academic, anyway: We could have purchased our original 120 acres with a far smaller down payment than the one we made. Nothing, in short, would have changed except the actual dollar figures involved. The principle — the "secret" of winding up with free homestead land — would have remained the same.

And part of that secret was the fact that we didn't really want 83.5 of those 120 acres in the first place. We didn't want the 83.5 acres of "good" field-crop land that all the local farmers wanted. No. What we were after was the 36.5 acres of "worthless" creek bottom, buildings, woods, etc. that we knew would make an ideal MOTHER EARTH NEWS-type homestead.

This, of course, gave us a tremendous advantage in any land deal we undertook. Everyone else looked at the whole 120 acres and tried to balance the cost of "improving" the rough 36.5 acres against the profit he or she could make farming those other 83.5 acres of field crops. And then the other potential purchasers would mentally calculate how long they'd have to farm the whole 120 acres to make enough money to be able to buy yet another piece of property and expand their holdings even further.

We, on the other hand, had no intention of "improving" that rough 36.5-acre tract at all. We liked it just the way it was. Furthermore, we figured that 36.5 acres was a plenty big enough "place in the country" for us. We had no desire to parlay it into "bigger and more efficient" landholdings of any kind. As a matter of fact, we didn't even want to farm the "good" 83.5 acres that went with it.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!