Perhaps you have the dream of buying a parcel and starting a farm. Perhaps you plan to start with a garden (wise idea) and then “grow” into a farm large enough to sustain yourself and others. What should you look for in choosing your land?
In an earlier article about the extra “values” of rural property, I touched on the obvious requirements. You might want to look that over; it’ll just take a couple of minutes and then come back over here. I’ll make lemonade while you’re gone. Then we’ll sit on the porch and talk. Go on, now, click this link and read your rural land primer.
Are you back? OK. One way to go about your project is to buy an existing farm with a proven record of productivity. That is not a sure bet. That farm may be “worked out” or have so many problems that it will break your back just like it did the folks who are trying to get rid of it. You may be buying other people’s mistakes. You will still need to know what to look for.
I have been trying devise a description of “the perfect farm.” As a realtor I know that no property is perfect. There are always trade-offs. Always. But I wanted to get my definition as close as possible, and to move past the obvious elements, to get to a deeper level of understanding.
Naturally, when I have farm questions, I go to see “my” farmer, Alan Haight who, with his partner Jo McProud, owns Riverhill Farm, just outside of Nevada City, California. I’ve written about Alan, Jo, and Riverhill, and you can check that out later. But stay here on the porch for now, I’m getting to the good part. “Ma, bring out some a’ them ginger snaps for our company!”
Riverhill Farm is my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where I get fresh fruits and veggies for my family. I drove out there yesterday for “pick up” . . . and my intention of asking Alan exactly what made a perfect farm. He didn’t have time for a big palaver. He was . . . you know . . . working!
But he did take time to mosey down a row and personally cut me a mess o’ collard greens. I cooked them last night using Ike’s recipe of sautéed ginger and garlic with a little dribble of apple cider vinegar. Wait. I’m getting off track.
No, Allen didn’t have time to educate me on this Monday afternoon, but, wondrously, his weekly newsletter went right to the heart of of my query.
“I have hoped to create an economically viable farm at a scale that remains human, is sensitive to the environment, and which is productive enough to merit being referred to as a farm.”
“We (farmers in Nevada County) do not yet have a strong collective understanding of the natural limits of productive farming in this bio-region.”
Wow. If Alan Haight, arguably the most accomplished farmer in the county, is still experimenting, then the very idea of “a perfect farm and perfect farming” is silly.
Alan continues . . .
“For all practical purposes, the current generation of farmers is the first generation to attempt to make sense of the place in which they are farming in terms of this region’s ability to feed the local population.”
And finally . . .
“Given what we know about the effects of a decline in the availability of inexpensive oil—higher fuel costs increasing the cost of food production and reducing our ability transport food long distances, among other things—the efforts currently being undertaken by these farmers are essential to the long-term survivability of our community as we know it.”
“The long-term survivability of our community as we know it.”
That’s what’s really in the back of your mind, isn’t it?
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