The history of American farms is at an interesting juncture at the moment.
There are many young farmers wanting to get into farming, but can’t because of land/equipment costs.
And there are a lot of old farmers who want to retire, but can’t because there’s no one to buy the land and take over the farm. Some of these older farmers are resorting to selling the property to developers. But there are a lot of farmers who don’t want to do that. They want to see their farm continue on in the hands of a strong, young, determined farmer.
To make it even worse, there’s the battle for small farms to stay afloat as corporations and the government use tactics meant to squelch all but the few largest farms out of business. This is only a concern for those who want to farm, though, right? Nope.
You’ve got to eat everyday, don’t you? And so do the other 316 million Americans. Let’s just say that if someone (or a very few someones) controlled the food supply, they’d have the American people in their pocket.
Consider this snippet from a recent interview done by Modern Farmer:
Modern Farmer: What do you think is depressing about the future of American farming?
Ruth Campbell (Age: 61, retiring farmer): The fact that corporations have so much power, and that between government and corporations, it’s just a revolving door for the power structure…. I think that the small farms are going to save agriculture if it’s going to be saved.
IF it’s going to be saved. No mincing words there. We’ve got our hands full if we want to keep the tyranny of the ginormous corporations plus government interference at bay.
Thankfully, there is a growing list of resources to connect young farmers and old farmers, and some of them can even help with the buying/selling of the land, and the transition of responsibilities of the farm.
Buying land in the country is different than buying land in suburban or urban areas.** If you’re planning on raising plants or animals you need to know about animal regulations and zoning laws. If you’re out west (in the United States) you ought to know about water rights, and whether or not your land comes with them. Make sure you walk the land yourself, look for the resources that are there (or lacking). (Water, wood trees, grass, good soil, sunlight, elevation changes, fruit trees, edible or toxic plants, etc.)
You need to know the typical seasonal pattern of the land… is it prone to flooding or fire? How much rainfall does it get annually? Does it get a lot of wind, or no wind? Is it a low area compared with surrounding land (you’d get pooling of cold air)? What is the top-soil, sub-soil, and bedrock like in the area? How thick is each layer, and how far down does the bedrock sit?
You also need to consider access to the land – you want to be able to get to and from your own property legally. Know the difference between deeded access and deeded easement. Is a well already drilled? Is there electrical hook-ups to the land (if you want that)? Are there any buildings, new or old, on the property that can be used to house animals or plants?
Know what’s going on in the area. Check the local news and talk to the locals. There may be reasons a landowner is trying to sell that he’s not telling you about.
Maybe the community is about to open up a new landfill just behind the property you’re about to purchase. That would obviously affect the value of the property and should be taken into consideration.
Consider other nearby land/community conditions that could affect your property, including future events or situations.
You also need to know, before you sign any purchase agreement, what the EXACT boundaries of the property are. Otherwise you might think a resource is available on your property, only to find out that it sits 2 feet inside the adjacent property.
Given that this could be the most important purchase you make in your life, you’ll want to make your decision with great care and consideration. The one book I would HIGHLY recommend you acquire is Finding & Buying Your Place in the Country* by Les Scher & Carol Scher.
Whether you’re looking for land to grow organic vegetables, raise dairy cows, or raise poultry for eggs or meat, there are literally hundreds of properties available for sale or rent. Check out the list of resources below!
Center for Rural Affairs Land Link
Field Guide for Beginning Farmers (lots of good info & links)
Good Food Jobs (“Satisfying the hunger for meaningful work”)
Land for Good
Land Jobs Stuff (South New England)
Lands of America
Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Services (MOSES)
Young Farmers Coalition Training Opportunities
New England Farmland Finder
New England Land Link
New England Small Farm Institute
New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (Northeast US)
North East Organic Farming Association (NOFA)
Rodale Institute’s: Farmers Connect
Seeking Farmers-Seeking Land (Land Stewardship Project – Midwest)
Shared Earth (Garden Plots & Allottments)
Sustainable Ag Jobs (Group on FB)
Sustainable Farming Internships & Apprenticeships (NSAIS)
Sustainable Living & Farming Jobs
Urban Land Army Land Link
*The book recommended above is an affiliate link. You don’t pay any more than you otherwise would … we just get a few cents for recommending it. ☺
**Disclaimer: The materials contained on this website are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal, investment or other professional advice on any subject matter.