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Old 10-22-2014, 03:26 AM
 
Location: Madison
2 posts, read 2,261 times
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Hi all,

Longtime lurker, first time poster. I live in Madison, WI. Considering a move to SE MN to establish a small, very traditional, farmstead creamery producing French alpine cheeses. I find Wisconsin to be a "dairy state," true, but an industrial-oriented dairy state not as amenable to farmstead, artisanal producers as I'd like. Land, as well, is very expensive anywhere within two hours of Madison.

Can anyone tell me what land and farming potential might be like in, say, Houston and Minona counties?

As well, what MN's regulatory structure is like, i.e., how friendly the state is to raw milk, artisanal farmers and cheesemakers?

Finally, what the quality of education is like, in these areas? We have a 13 year old son, who thrives here and this is a major reason we're staying.

Thanks all.
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Old 10-22-2014, 07:39 AM
 
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My grandfather was a dairy farmer in Houston county, but he wasn't very artisanal.
Education seemed average for rural MN, which is below average for Minnesota as a whole. My cousins who went to high school in that area are not thriving. I would assume Madison would have better school options due to the university influence.

Last edited by rzzzz; 10-22-2014 at 08:56 AM..
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Old 10-23-2014, 06:11 AM
 
Location: Madison
2 posts, read 2,261 times
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rzzzz, thanks very much for the perspective. Our son's education is paramount so this is important and helpful information. Yes, will likely be waiting until he graduates from HS, which is another 4 1/2 years.

Any idea of the quality of land (for pastoralism, I mean), prices and availability? Don't need more than 20 in pasture, very small need for the home itself.

Many thanks again.
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Old 10-23-2014, 07:55 AM
 
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I think land quality is fine. There's a lot of dairy in the area. I'm no expert, though. Not sure about prices or availability. My family didn't make any money when they sold my grandpa's land, so it's probably not that expensive.
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Old 10-23-2014, 08:19 AM
 
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You may want to check with the Rochester Farmers' Market (Rochester Downtown Farmers Market - Winter Market 2014-2015*Nov. 01, 08, 22Dec. 06, 20Jan. 10, 24Feb. 07, 21Mar. 07, 21Apr. 04, 18*9:00-NoonBldg 41, Graham ParkOlmsted Co. Fairgrounds****Thank You to our 2014 Sponsors:******** MAYO CLINIC?*Sixta Insu ). I've noticed at least a few vendors selling cheeses there. I can't comment on the land or schools nor can I estimate how much money you can make. But I bet that your best shot is to tap into the Rochester market. There certainly seems to be a good delegation in Rochester that's willing to pay a premium for quality local foods. There are also plenty of Wisconsin natives who are unhappy with regular grocery store cheese. The farmers' market is swarming in peak seasons and even has a steady trickle through the winter. The People's Food Coop ( People's Food Co-op ) sells local and organic groceries in both La Crosse and Rochester, too. I can't promise anything, but think there's enough all-around potential to merit further research.

I know of some people in the Chatfield area that do things like making beer, wine, and cheese but I think they do it mostly as a hobby for their own consumption.
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Old 10-28-2014, 01:37 AM
 
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You're looking in a good area, as the economy in this region is mixed tourism/agriculture. Land prices are high now, of course, but are going down a little from an all time high in 2013. Also look at surrounding counties - Fillmore and Winona, and other counties in SW WI and NE IA. Schools seem fine here; I surely wouldn't worry about your son's education. (Having lived in Madison myself I think the schools here are at least as good as they are there.) Houston itself is a very family oriented town with lots of regional cultural and environmental opportunities. Going closer to Winona and LaCrosse land prices will be higher but there will be more educational options.

Contact the Land Stewardship Project for workshops on small farming in this region. Land Stewardship Project - Fostering an ethic of stewardship for farmland, promoting sustainable agriculture and developing sustainable communities. Maybe the Farm Beginnings program would be right for you? There's lots for you to think about to make sure you're on the right path! Minnesota Extension also conducts many useful workshops in this region. There is a lot of support and help for small farmers here.

There's a LOT of competition for farm acreage acquistition, though. Most good land gets snapped up by other farmers at auctions rather than going through any real estate companies. There are a variety of auction companies that specialize in farm land. Take a look at the auction notices in the Bluff Country News and the Winona Daily News and the Rochester Post Bulletin. But again - most of the good land never really gets advertised. Also, most land here is rolling and so is mixed grazing/tillable/timber.

From what I've been learning, most former dairyers have switched to beef cattle over the past decades, and goats are also more profitable as a meat crop rather than milk/cheese. But as I said, there's lots to consider and learn - keep pursuing your dream!

Last edited by 601halfdozen0theother; 10-28-2014 at 01:48 AM..
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Old 10-28-2014, 01:39 AM
 
5,799 posts, read 4,810,185 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rzzzz View Post
My family didn't make any money when they sold my grandpa's land, so it's probably not that expensive.
That's just crazy - farm land is going as high as $11,000 an acre now, depending on tillable acreage, soil quality, drainage and etc. Maybe they sold it several years ago, or maybe there was a mortgage???
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Old 10-28-2014, 01:04 PM
 
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It was 20 years ago.
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Old 10-28-2014, 06:05 PM
 
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Boy, I bet you wish your family had hung onto it!
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Old 10-28-2014, 06:22 PM
 
1,774 posts, read 1,730,508 times
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It wouldn't have mattered to me personally. I have no claim on it. There's 40 other grandchildren. I think they gave the proceeds to my aunt who needed the money and provided the most elder care. I haven't been there since the funeral and have no interest in going there again.

Last edited by rzzzz; 10-28-2014 at 06:30 PM..
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