It’s time to buy the farm
November 1, 2013
If it seems like we were just looking for a new farm and just moved, then you’ve been paying attention. We have been living at our current rental address for about 10 months now, and we will remain here through the holidays and most of winter. What happens then? We hope to move to our very own farm. Now that we are married, and now that we have 2 years of mistakes and successes behind us, it’s time for us to find our own farm. We don’t regret renting for two years while we cut our farming teeth. Moving every year has been a hassle, but trying out 2 contrasting farms has shown us much of what we want and don’t want in our own farm. Aside from site-specific rules for the use of a landlord’s property, there are things you simply can’t do on rented property. Growing asparagus or peonies for example. It takes three years for them to mature, and then if you move them in that time, three more years to reestablish them. So we choose to wait. Permanent fencing is crucial to keeping animals safe and out of the road, and in a rental situation it makes little sense to invest in something that is expensive and not at all portable. Our portable net fencing works very well, except for when it doesn’t. Some of our neighbors are understanding and excited about the presence of farm animals on a farm, and others are deeply offended and inconvenienced if they so much as see a turkey or guinea fowl standing beside the road. For each of us loving the rural simplicity of this region of New York, it seems there are 10 more lusting after the suburban hell that has already swallowed so much of the rest of America. Farms are vulnerable and easy to destroy.
Hence the imminent need to buy our own farm. We have no selfish need to own land. We are happy sharing it. We depend on the land for our livelihood and our security. There is a farm out there that needs us as much or more as we need it, and owning it is the only protection we can give it. It is the only way we can truly create all that we dream, to share it with our friends, our family, our neighbors, and complete strangers.
The following are a list of preferable attributes in the perfect farm for us.
Ideally, we will stay in the Schoharie/Otsego/Montgomery County, New York vicinity. Sharon Springs, Roseboom, Cherry Valley, and surrounding towns would all be perfect for us. Of course if the right farm finds us and needs us to move we would consider moving further.
We are also interested in exploring southwestern Vermont as an option, or perhaps anywhere in Vermont. The land is more expensive, but the laws seem to be more farmer friendly in Vermont, especially in terms of raw dairy.
We need a house to call home. Ideally it will be big enough to host guests, be those bed and breakfast patrons, friends and family visitors, interns, or farm curious folks looking to have their first farm experiences. It need not be perfect with all modern appliances (but okay if it is!). It does need to have a roof and heat and running water. We are up for some light remodeling, but not for complete fixer upper. An historic house with charm and warmth will make up for a few cosmetic problems.
Although most of our farming will happen on 30 to 40 acres, we are looking for as much as we can afford. We want to save farmland and forest. The only way we can do that is to buy it and dig in our heels. Some of that acreage will ideally be in open pasture or tillable land, so we can plant our large garden, graze our goats, sheep and pigs, and begin some cut flower production.
Some sort of barns, sheds, outbuildings, or a combination of all three would be ideal. While we are firm believers that animals belong outside, there are time when indoors is a safer place for them, and there are some animals such as our goats, that just prefer to be in the comfort of the barn much of the day. Storage for a winter’s worth of hay is necessary. Again, a good roof is more important than anything else. We can do minor repairs and maintenance to an old barn, but building from the ground up is beyond our finances.
We need water, and so do our animals. An ideal property will have plentiful water in several forms. A well or spring for the house, in addition to a pond/lake/stream out on the land. Otherwise perfect grazing pasture becomes useless without a ready source of drinking water for livestock.
We have experienced good ones and bad ones, and it’s not until you move that you find out what you have. Thus a buffer zone is needed. Our animals free range, and they roam. Sometimes into the road, sometimes down to the stream, sometimes out to the pasture. They bark, they holler, they crow. We like it that way. We have seen the consternation that a misplaced chicken turd can cause, and we’d prefer that we don’t have too many outside opinions on how we run our farm. Additionally a quiet road or dead end have great appeal.
Price and Financing.
We don’t kid ourselves about what we can and can’t afford. It is often assumed that since we came from a city that we are “city slickers” or that we must be trust fund babies if we just threw in the towel on our city life to play farm for a while. This is simply not true, as anyone who has gotten to know us in our farming life can attest. Beyond all other labels, we are farmers, and are looking to make our living from the land. We have looked at very nice properties, and even considered getting in over our heads with mortgages that would be difficult to pay off. But at the end of the day, we don’t want to have to work off the farm just to pay the bank. We’d rather find a simpler sort of farm with fewer bells and whistles and both stay on that farm and work it together. We are confident that we can afford a place in the low $200,000′s, and not much higher. Lower is a-okay.
We are open to creative financing options as well. Owner financing is an option we would explore, although a traditional bank loan is also an option.
We would like to close on a property this winter, and move in March of 2014 or earlier.
We started this farming dream after becoming concerned about our food system. Rather than complain about it, we moved away to do something about it. As we have become farmers, it has become evident how valuable farm land is, and how vulnerable it is to development. Farmers are the only ones who can save this land, and most often are the last ones who can afford to buy it. I suppose we are looking for a deal. We are looking for a family or individual who are no longer able or interested in farming themselves, but who value their farm, and want to see it preserved.
We use mostly organic practices, always on pasture. We don’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and will only medicate an animal if it is truly sick, and is not intended for the table. We are opposed to gas drilling under our land the land of our neighbors. We are opposed to the proliferation of genetically modified crops and the corporations who push them. We value all farmers, and acknowledge that our style of farming is a small piece of the greater food puzzle.
Our operation will center around pigs, dairy goats, and poultry. We focus on heritage breed preservation along side our more efficient modern production animals. We would some day like to have a small farmstead dairy operation with our goat and sheep milk.
We also love entertaining and having guests on our farm. We will work towards creating a farm based bed and breakfast where people can come and stay and eat entirely off the land. And when we have learned a little more ourselves, we will have an active internship and education program where new farmers can come and learn from us and teach us in the process. We wouldn’t have been able to become farmers without the chance to rent a patch of land and give it a try, and we want to make sure others have that opportunity.
We will explore any appropriate conservation programs and land trusts to guarantee that our farm will remain a farm after us. At the end of our farming careers, we will only sell it to farmers who also intend on keeping the farm active. We pledge to keep our farm intact and not develop it beyond constructing buildings needed for farm use.
Thank you for reading about our hunt, and for sharing any leads you may have. Word of mouth is still alive and well, and we hope it will bring us and our farm together. You can contact us by leaving a comment on the blog (we will not publish comments with personal contact information) or email Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bailey and Thomas