It will be four years ago next month that we sold our home in the ‘burbs and moved to a hobby farm about forty-five minutes out of town. The farm life is in many ways a much harder life than suburbia life, but the blessings are well worth the effort and we wouldn’t trade it for anything. Since a fair number of people seem to be considering moving out to the country these days, I thought I’d share a to-do list of things one should consider before making the move to a farm, whether it be a smaller hobby farm like ours or a larger working farm. Here are some thoughts.
Figure Out What You Want
It’s important to think about your purposes for moving to a farm so you can narrow down your real estate search before hand. Are you looking for a small hobby farm to gain some elbow room, grow your own fruits and veggies, and raise a few animals?
Or are you considering a larger working farm such as a dairy farm, beef cattle farm or large crop-growing farm. Each type of farm has its pros and cons.
With hobby farms you can produce enough veggies/animals, etc. to feed yourselves and maybe make a small profit, but if you’re looking to make a living through farming you’ll likely want to choose a bigger production.
If you know what you’re doing, there’s decent money to be made in farming provided you pick the right income source. The beef cattle farm where we buy our beef from does very well, for instance. But veggie crop farmers often get paid minimally for their corn and other crops if they’re selling to bigger companies. If you’re considering farming for making a living, do your research before hand so that you know exactly what type of farm will give you the space to produce the income you need.
Recommended Reading: The Profitable Hobby Farm, How to Build a Sustainable Local Foods Business
Know that Farming is Hard Work
Even on a smaller hobby farm (we have just over seven acres) farming is hard work. Growing and preserving fruits and veggies is hard work. Taking care of a bigger lawn is hard work. If you’re looking to become more self-sufficient from a heating standpoint, know that chopping and storing wood is hard work.
There’s been a couple of times over the last four years when I’ve sat down and sobbed, tired from all of the work – especially at harvest time. We’ve canned and frozen hundreds of pounds of veggies and fruits. We’ve spent days cleaning up fallen trees after severe storms. We’ve mended fences, hand-painted the huge barn…………….. the list goes on and on and on.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but if you’re interested in working your farm to be self-sufficient, know that getting and keeping yourself in decent physical shape is important. Read this article on how we keep medical costs low and keep healthy at the same time.
Think Big-Picture About What You Want in a Property
Beware of Trees
For instance, our property is lush with mature trees and a gorgeous site to behold, but if we had to do it again we’d buy a property with little or no trees around the home and barn. The trees are gorgeous and provide shade that helps us stay cool in summer, but storm clean up and the danger of a tree falling and hitting a building is a constant concern. And mowing around all of the trees adds extra time to lawn maintenance.
Beware of Sun
A property void of trees presents its own problems. The blazing hot sun can cause skyrocketing air conditioning costs in the summer. A lack of trees means no self-sufficient heating source. An ideal farm property for us would have little to no trees in the vicinity of the buildings, but no large south facing windows and plenty of trees on the outer edges of the land.
Consider a Water Source
Another ideal feature of a farm is a water source, either a running stream or a large pond/lake. The water source can help you with farm animals or in case your well water is unavailable. At the same time, most farms have their own water wells on site. Just remember that most wells are electric wells and that means no water for you if the electricity goes out, unless you have either a manual pump attached to your well or a generator like the one below to ensure you still have water access in the event of a power outage. Which reminds me: Power outages do seem to happen more frequently in the country – at least where we live. Part of that is because the wide open spaces give the wind more room to cause damage. The other part of the problem is that we’re further out from the utility company, and they usually work to restore power to cities first because of the larger number of people affected by the outage. For this reason, a generator is a MUST HAVE in the country, IMHO, either a portable generator or a whole house generator if you’ve got the cash.
Other Property Features
A Properly Working Well and Septic System
It’s likely that the farm you choose won’t have city provided water and sewer, but instead a private water well and private septic system. It’s important to make sure the well and septic system are in good working order before you buy. Most counties have departments in place to check the condition of wells and septic systems, and depending on where you buy, the county might require a recent inspection on the well/septic by the seller.
If you buy a property that needs to have the well and/or septic system replaced, you can expect to pay between $5,000 and $20,000.
Proximity to Work, Stores, Etc.
This is something to consider before you buy a farm as well. How far are you willing to travel to work? How far do you have to travel to get groceries, medical care, etc? It’s important to take all of these factors into consideration before you buy. In our case we have a 45 minute drive to a major metropolitan area but only a twenty minute drive to a Walmart. It’s a good balance for us and we love coming home to the peace and quiet of the country so it’s worth the drive.
Some people might not care for the drive, however, so it’s important to determine if the drive will be okay with you.
Location, Location, Location
As with any property purchase, it’s important to buy a property that has a good location. As I look at the area around where we are, here are some location mistakes I see people make.
Buying Too Close to Main Roads/Busy Areas
The area where we live is ripe with small little towns, and many farms are right on the edge of the towns or on the edge of the main highway here. When people are looking for farms, they are often looking for peace and quiet, so you may want to avoid farms near busy towns or highways for resale purposes. On the other hand, farms close to busy highways and cities could re-sell as commercial property down the line, which would actually increase the value.
But if your main purpose is for land, peace and quiet, beware of farms near busy spaces.
Buying Properties with Run-down Buildings
Many farms have nice houses but old, rundown buildings on the property. Decrepit buildings provide not only a safety danger but a potential increase in workload should the buildings have to come down.
Buying Properties with Too Much Lowland
Farm properties general will have high land, low/marshy land, wooded land or a combo of all three. It’s important to get a plat map of the property you’re considering to make sure it’s not prone to flooding. If it’s situated too near a river, stream or lake, or if it’s situated in a low, marshy area that could spell trouble during a year of heavy rain or snow.
Pay the Mortgage off ASAP
Farms can often be expensive, and as Millennial Moola mentioned in the comments, many people lost their farms during the Great Depression due to being unable to afford the mortgage payments. This advice can apply to any mortgage, but with farm mortgages as well it’s a smart idea to get them paid off as soon as possible to lessen the financial burden that a farm property can bring.
For all its work, I wouldn’t trade farm life for anything. The joy that back-to-basics living has brought to our family is priceless. Nearly everyone who comes to visit here tells us it feels like a sanctuary, with nature abounding and the lack of sounds of noise and traffic.
Have you ever lived on or owned a farm? What advice do you have for those considering purchasing a farm?