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Acquiring The Farm

The definitive website on homesteading and self sufficiency.

The first and most important decision you will ever make is, where you want to move. Moving from your current residence to your new homestead should not be taken lightly. This new location depending on your needs, may be close to a city or way out in the country. The most important factor is that the new community you choose satisfies the needs of your family. Depending on what your goal is, you will fall into one of three categories:

  • The Rural Residence
  • The Rural Residence with a family garden & orchard
  • The income producing mini-farm, which includes animals and crops for sale

The Rural Residence

This objective is the easiest to find. Your requirements are more social, climate and employment. The main concerns will be the rural home, view, roads, proximity to town and services. Since your decision is not based on food production or developing an income, your decision is more a personal one than a strategic decision. You will still need to consider, water supply, septic, flood hazard & distance to medical services.

The Rural Residence with a Family Garden & Orchard

All of the considerations of the Rural Residence are the same here except now you will need to consider the land and weather in relation to the crops you wish to grow. It is important to know what fruits and crops can be grown successfully in the area you choose to purchase. It is always better to learn as much as possible up front. You will still have to learn through trial and error which plants do well. Many factors that may be localized may affect your plants. These may be; micro-climate, bugs, disease, critters, wind, rain, etc... You will learn about these through experience and you can usually adjust your growing practices to limit their effect on your crops.

Now, lets list the most important items to consider.

Location Of The Garden.

It may be in several locations. It is important to take more time and care selecting the location of your orchard. It is easy to change a location for growing vegetables, but moving trees and bushes is a major project. You will need to know and consider:

  • Soil type, depth and nutrient values
  • Slope of land. This is important when measuring sunshine, wind and rainfall. Steep slopes also will be a challenge for power equipment. A slight slope facing southwest is considered the best location. But a green leafy summer garden would not like this location. They would prefer a cooler indirect sunlight location. Point here, know your crops and their needs.
  • Frost pockets. This is areas that receive frost first on your land. An experienced grower can spot these locations easily. Most new growers learn through recording where frost hits first. It is best to avoid these areas for plants that are frost sensitive.
  • Fruit trees are more of a challenge. You cannot control when they come into blossom. A late frost or freeze can damage the blossoms and reducing your yield or even eliminating fruit setting for that year. It is recommended that you always utilize trees that are hardier than your zone and avoid any variety that has a zone limit equal to yours. Nothing is worse than growing a beautiful tree that never bears fruit!
  • Native plants. The use of natives for shelter, food and protection, for both yourself, the birds and critters, is very important. We will discuss permaculture techniques later, but it is very important to a healthy homestead.

The Mini-Farm

The objectives of a mini-farm is to provide a wider array of goods for your family and have excess to sell for a second or if large enough, a primary income. The mini-farm can be anything from a few acres to 10,15,20 or more acres. Usually, this includes the addition of chickens, goats, pigs, bees and sheep in addition to larger orchards and larger plots of vegetables. It is very important to check local zoning laws to be sure that you have the ability to keep and raise animals.

  • Make an assessment of the neighborhood. Is it growing, is it farm based, how close are your neighbors? These things may cause tension in the future. Your animals may become unwelcome if the area becomes more heavily populated with non-farms.
  • Climate has less critical for livestock but good shelter is a requirement. Ability to care for the animals during the cold months is critical.
  • Fencing. This can not be over stated. Not only does it protect your animals, it protects your neighbors. You do not need your goat chasing the local kids or cleaning out their garden either!
  • Animal waste. A process for addressing and removal of animal is not only sanitary, it also is a great source of nutrients for your garden. If a property is not designed well, this process can be a real problem. Make sure to observe the design and location of barns, shelters and paddocks. If you will be building your own, make sure to evaluate potential locations and be sure that once built will work efficiently.

Beyond assessing the farm itself and the neighborhood, you need to evaluate the local community and the services it can provide.

  • Schools. Proximity to farm, busing and after school activities. Very important if you have school age children.
  • Health care. Location of nearest services including hospital, doctors & EMS.
  • Location of law enforcement.
  • Closest firehouse.
  • Proximity to closest stores, churches and community groups & activities.
  • Maintenance of Roads. How quickly are the repaired? How often are they plowed and sanded in winter? These questions are important for many of the considerations listed above. If you cannot get to them or them to you, that is a problem.

The last step is talking with neighbors and checking with local information sources. Talking with the neighbors will give you a sense of the community and wether you will be comfortable with them. Information sources would be; Chamber of Commerce, Cooperative Extension, County Offices, Social Groups & Clubs and Real Estate Professionals.

The last thing is to go slow and be cautious.

  • Define your objective clearly and do not compromise easily.
  • Avoid over-enthusiasm. This is a trap many people fall for. Sleep on it, if you still feel the same way a day later, a week later or maybe even longer, than go for it.
  • Do not settle. Make sure that the land you decide to buy can meet your objectives. Do not try to fit a round peg in a square hole. It will only lead to frustration and potential failure.