Finding farm land can be both fun and stressful. There are a number of different approaches you can choose from depending on your situation. I will tell you how I went about finding land to farm on, and then provide you with a series of links to help you get your search started.
What Is Your Budget?
Before you start dreaming about your perfect farm in your head, you first have to take a serious look at your budget. You budget is going to determine how much farm land you end up with, and what is going to be on it in the first place. Having a good handle on your "numbers" is a good habit to be in. It let's you be brutally honest with yourself, and will save you a lot of stress and headaches throughout your life.
I will admit, it is something I hate doing. Not my forte. However, it has helped me make many informed decisions about my business and my life. Knowing what your cash flow is going to be like, what money you already have, and if necessary, what your credit score is will help you in your land search.
Always keep in mind that "you get what you pay for". Sometimes a deal is not a deal when you really start to take a microscope to it. I know a number of farmers who got a "good deal" on a piece of land, only to have to move years later when they realized there was bad soil, no water, poor frontage, etc etc... Even if they did not have to move, they realized their business was stunted for one reason or another after having lived on the land for a few years.
You really have to look at all of the possibilities and not get caught up in the clouds dreaming about the perfect farm that you are going to build on this cheap piece of land. This philosophy holds true in all aspects of the farm, and in life. You get what you pay for. "Poor men (or women) can only afford the best." I like that quote. You need to invest in the best when you can because you cannot afford to have it break down, or fail on you. Whether it is equipment or land.
Important thing to remember.
Make Sure You Want To Do It
Before you go running off to find the perfect piece of land, consider renting or leasing land first, to see if you actually want to do this for life. Buying a piece of property is no small investment, and you want to make sure that you not only enjoy the business that you are getting into, but that it is viable as well. Leasing or renting land might be your only option right now anyways. It is working great for me. It is less expensive, it can work great for all parties involved, and it can give you a little more financial freedom.
Find The Right Area
I looked for the right area before I looked for the right farm. This can be really tough. There is a lot of good farm land out there to be found, but a fair amount of it is in the middle of nowhere. I'll give you a for instance. Two cattle farmers I know, same cattle, both grass-fed beef. One has a farm in upstate NY, and one closer to NY City. Upstate gets average $5 per pound, further South averages $8 per pound. Location location location. The thing is, land is way cheaper upstate. But there's a smaller population, and in general they have less money to spend. The costs are still the same. It's not cheaper to raise cows in a different area. Things that I looked for when searching for farm land:
- Proximity to family (super important to me)
- Concentration of existing farms who sold locally
- Population density
- Major roads
- Financial demographics (can people afford to buy what I produce?)
- Schools (moms are into healthy food for their kids)
Find The Right Farm Land In That Right Area
There are several factors you want to keep in mind when looking for farm land. Your requirements will change with what type of farm you would like to have. But here's a short list of questions to keep an eye out for.
- Is there good road frontage?
- What is the soil type?
- Have you checked the soil map?
- Rock ledge peeking out anywhere on the land?
- How well is the soil drained?
- Is there a pond? A well?
- Any existing structures?
- Is there a conservation easement on the land?
- What are the rules contained in the easement? (this can bite you in the a** if you're not careful)
- Proximity to downtown area?
- How close are the neighbors? And do they mind a stinky noisy farm moving in?
Use More Than One Method to Find Farm Land
Diversity in farming is essential. This also applies to finding farm land. You don't want to put all your eggs into one basket. Use a number of different avenues to find your farm land, and you will have a greater chance of success.
At first I did not have any land to farm on, and very little funds to work with. I used several different methods, and I was persistent, now I have more farmland at my disposal than I can use. Most of which I'm just using through barter or trade, which is way cheaper for me.
Different Methods to Find Farm Land
- Land Trust
- Driving Door To Door
- Asking Other Farmers
- Get Your Name In The Paper
- Ask Family and Friends To Help You Look
Collection of Links To Find Farm Land
To get you started there is one page in particular that I know of that has collected links to find farm land. That is on the Beginning Farmers website here.
I will compile a list of my own very soon, but that should give you a really good head start. The biggest thing you need to remember is to be persistent. Good things take time and effort. Don't lose faith if you don't find the perfect situation right away. The more good your put out into the world the more good you are going to get back. It worked for me!