Leaving the City for a Country Homestead in South Carolina

Tom Nocera describes his family's experience moving from Tampa Bay area back to the land to the South Carolina countryside.

| September/October 1975

  • Farmland homesteading
    Quite often during that time we found ourselves leafing through back issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS (we'd bought as many as we could afford as part of our early homesteading research effort) . . . and one of our big breaks turned up late one July night, in the form of a P & S notice from our own little patch of South Carolina.

  • Farmland homesteading

Susanne and I made our move from the megalopolis of the once-unpolluted, uncongested Tampa Bay area in Florida . . . and — after searching as far as Costa Rica for a suitable homestead location — bought a place in the country three or so miles from a little town in western South Carolina. It's a simple, friendly spot, the home of a small liberal arts college and perhaps two or three hundred families.

Moving to Our South Carolina Country Homestead

It was a lucky accident that brought us to this area and to just the place we were searching for. In fact, had the old VW not suffered a serious oil leak on a farm-hunting trek into the Blue Ridge Mountain country, we'd probably still be on the road looking. The car did break down, though . . . and while it was being repaired, we scanned the listings of a United Farm Agency catalog (think of it as a tool) and found that S.C. land prices were about one-tenth the going rates in the resort-developed sections of North Carolina. I called the nearest agent and described — as precisely as we could imagine it — the piece of property we were looking for . . . especially how large a country homestead we wanted, what we intended to do with the land, and what we could afford to pay. My contact said he knew of a couple of tracts that were for sale and would be worth our time to see.

That afternoon, with a new $60.00 oil cooler gasket in the VW, we drove to the small town where the agent did business. Still later that same afternoon, we wrote out another check as "earnest money" . . . for our guide had taken us from the real estate office down several miles of quiet backroads to our ideal new-old homestead. It was the first of the two neglected small farms we were shown, and even better than we'd imagined. Veni, vidi, compri.

Naturally, it wasn't all that simple. In fact—although we wrote that check on June 30 — it was mid-November before we took possession and January was almost gone before we moved in. Some of the delay came of having to arrange financing from out of state . . . but we finally did get our loan, through the local Production Credit Association and Federal Land Bank. (These institutions — which are now owned by their borrowers — were originally created by the Federal government as answers to the special financial needs of the farmer, and work together as part of a cooperative Farm Credit System. Short and intermediate-term loans for farm and rural home necessities are available through the local branches of PCA, and longterm loans and mortgages through the Federal Land Banks. — MOTHER.)

Another holdup was due to a boundary question (two of our property lines happen to be creeks, and one had never been accurately measured). We had to call in a surveyor (and agree to split the cost of his service with the seller) before we could be sure that we had a deal.

Then a final problem came up at the last minute, when the previous owner wanted to sell us her kitchen appliances and oil heater separately . . . and tried to give us two dogs as part of the deal. We were learning firsthand that the purchase of country property has ins and outs all its own. (A book on that same subject was one of our numerous investments, and has paid for itself many times over. Nevertheless, we're still looking for a freezer and we have a very affectionate, lazy dog to trade!)

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