What You Should Consider Before You Buy a Farm

 

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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.

Westinghouse WH5500, 5500 Running Watts/6750 Starting Watts, Gas Powered Portable Generator

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.

Recommended Reading:Farming: Discover and Learn these top 9 Benefits of Why you Should Implement Farming in your Backyard Techniques to Grow Fruit and Vegetables (homesteading, farming tips)

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.

Conclusion

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?

30 comments

  1. Is that the house? It’s so cute! I think this is good advice. If you’re someone like me, you romanticize the notion of having a lot of land, a garden, and maybe some animals, but the reality might be really different. Even my small garden this year required me to really pay attention to it daily, and although it did ok, when I got busy, I neglected it and it died. 🙁

    • Laurie says:

      That’s the barn. 🙂 You’re so right, Tonya. It is SO much work. People often underestimate that. I know I did. I still wouldn’t change it for everything, but I have a much more realistic view of farm life now. 🙂

  2. My parents live on a farm but it is small. My parents both worked as the income from the farm would have never supported us otherwise. They also have relatively close neighbors (for a rural area) too. They just like having more space and my Grandpa (when he was younger and able) actually did much of the farm work (they only had crops). It is definitely hard work and the most successful farmers in our area either have a ton of land or a large-size cattle or dairy production. They also have a lot neighbors that don’t have any farm animals or crops but just wanted more space and quiet than city life provided.

    • Laurie says:

      I would love to see your parents’ place someday. The space is AWESOME. We love being able to kind of hide away, to run out to the garage in our undies or whatever. It sounds so silly, but that’s the kind of freedom that a farm can offer. It’s kind of like living in your own little world, although I wouldn’t doubt if at least one of the neighbors have gotten an underwear shot or two. Poor people. 🙂

  3. We dream about having a bit more land to do some hobby farming, so thanks so much for sharing this list of considerations. I know it’d be a big decision and undertaking, and if we ever do it I want to be prepared as possible. The tips about trees and sun are especially helpful.

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, it’s a mixed bag. We sometimes hate all of the trees, most of the time we LOVE them. The neighbors are in all sun, and it can be really bothersome as well.

  4. Amy says:

    Laurie, your barn is so lovely! I can only imagine the amount of work required to keep it that way…

    I have never lived on a farm, nor am I likely to ever do so. But it’s definitely something that I romanticize, and imagine I would enjoy doing. Your posts always bring me back to reality. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Thank you!!! Luckily we put a really high quality coat of paint/stain stuff on it so we shouldn’t have to do it again for quite some time. LOL, sometimes I hate being the reality person, but I know I’m doing people a favor in the long run. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading, Amy – I appreciate it!!!

  5. Oh, I love your barn, Laurie! And lots of great tips to consider when buying a farm.

    Like Tonya said, I think many of us tend to romanticize the idea of owning and operating a farm. I live in Iowa, my grandparents both farmed, and I was part of daily farming life as a child. It is very hard work. But, even with that knowledge, it’s an idea I still toss around in the back of my mind often. We do live in a somewhat rural area outside of town now and, like you, I love the peace and quiet.

  6. My granddad lost his family’s farm during the great depression because of their mortgage. I’d add to pay down all your loans to purchase the farm because debt can destroy you in a financial crisis of epic proportions

  7. Andrew says:

    I love the barn. Very interesting tips. My co-worker sometimes talks about buying a farm when he retires but I think his wife is more of a city girl.

  8. My wife has a dream to live on a farm. She and I have no experience and I’m afraid it will be more difficult than either one of us can anticipate.

    What was your level of experience before you lived on a farm?

    • Laurie says:

      Neither one of us had much experience, MSM. I grew up inner city, Rick grew up on 2.5 acres. It is difficult – at least it was at first. We’re happy to answer any questions if you guys are seriously considering it. Email @ thefrugalfarmer at ymail dot com 🙂

  9. kay ~ the barefoot minimalist says:

    My goodness, that barn looks like a house! Lucky horses! I lived in a big old farmhouse for 5 years. I think it may be my favorite house that I’ve lived in (I’ve lived in 19 different houses, so that says a lot). The house had no neighbors you could see from any direction. The road rarely had a car. You have it made Laurie! Sounds like a LOT of work, but peace and quiet are priceless these days. Enjoy! There are a lot of people who would love to trade places with you. 🙂

  10. Kathy says:

    A generator is almost a necessity IMO. When in the country we experienced an ice storm that left the area without power for nearly 6 days, and then a tornado came very near our property and left us without power for about a week. When you are in the country, the utility company’s first priority is to get the towns and subdivisions back on line because that is where the greatest number of people are impacted. Another area to consider is not only the amount of trees on the property but what kind, as well as the overall amount of land that must be maintained. When we sold our place, if people asked how long it took to mow our lawn, I knew instantly that they weren’t going to be the buyer. And while fruit trees are great….we had apple and peach orchard…..those trees need a lot of care. I mean ALOT. From pruning the branches to thinning the fruit to spraying for bugs and disease. And spraying is vital if you don’t want to lose your precious fruit to horrid Japanese beetles (in central Illinois). And finally, depending on how much you garden, grow fruit, have any type of crop or have animals, you will likely need bigger equipment than just the standard mower. This equipment is more expensive and needs maintenance to keep it operating. The maintenance obviously takes more time and money to accomplish. We loved living on our country acreage, and we now love not living on it. To each season there is a purpose.

  11. Wow! That’s a beautiful scene up there. I think that many people idealize farm life. The beauty; the absence of city noise and congestion; getting away from the rat-race . . . These are all good things that are true of farm life, but some people take them as the sum total of farm life. The huge amounts of work are tucked away into either denial or just not knowing. I hope I always have friends who live in the country – and on farms. I don’t think I’ll ever be a country dweller though.

    • Laurie says:

      It’s definitely not for everyone. I think it’s smart that you recognize that your best bet is hanging out with friends who have farms. 🙂

  12. I had never thought that I would be learning about living in a farm today 🙂 great post that details everything, like real estate, location is everything when wanting to move to a farm! My grandparents lived the farm life and to be completely honest, I don’t think the life is for me. I couldn’t really handle it when I went to visit them as a kid. Maybe my perspective changed though!

  13. You always have the most unique content, Laurie.

    We’re definitely city folk who will never own a farm ourselves, but I’m sure this post will be helpful to other agrarian minded readers.Congrats on hitting the four year mark! That’s big!

  14. Rajkumar says:

    Nice post and informative, i have always fond of farms and nature, even though i’m in love with these, i think i can never be able to buy one as i’m adapted to routine life of metro cities and 9 to 5 jobs, it is literally impossible for me to leave all my office work and go there to lead life, all these burdens literally stressing over my life.I think i should consider living with nature at least after retirement. But i’m sure that this post would be surely useful for those who pursue their dreams in nature.

    Have a good day!

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