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Thread summary:

Changing America, small town American towns disappearing, young Black professional couple interested in finding small town in South, Midwest, Rustbelt

 
Old 10-16-2006, 03:17 PM
 
Location: Durham, North Carolina
774 posts, read 1,633,874 times
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NPR is doing a story on Changing America where once again, "Experts" are talking about how life is changing. But they're just touching on the changes in Small Town America.

Many of the mountain small towns that once were mining towns are now tourist destinations with expensive "2nd home" buyers pricing out many of the people the town needs to run the place.

But more important to me are all the other small towns and rural areas where town populations are shrinking. Can people talk about some of these small towns where there are "hobby farm" plots available (five to ten acres or more) and where the remaining population is open to once urban black professional couple moving to?

Most seem to be in the South (good ) and midwest (also good ... but some of them are also in the Rust Belt and even places like South Dakota.

What's open in your area?
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Old 10-16-2006, 03:23 PM
 
Location: on an island
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The White Fence Farms development in Tallahassee is supposed to have those "hobby farms" available. It does appeal to me. But I don't think Tallahassee is shrinking.
I was kind of sad to see Central City and Black Hawk, Colorado turned into gambling towns.
It's sort of like they had to "destroy the village in order to save it."
But these towns were dying and now they are not.
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Old 10-18-2006, 10:28 PM
 
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Default They are all over Ohio

Good states for what you are looking for are places like PA and Ohio.

Ohio still has many homesteads that incorporate a working farm. Hobby farm is probably not the correct term for many. Truck farm is more accurate. That is where the farm produces something and the farmer in most cases delivers it to a user. Examples are hay, vegatables, grain, etc.

Many of these type farms can not survive on the income produced from farming alone and they also have someone working at a non-farm job at least part of the year. Many also have combo timber plots.

The size can vary. Ohio also has a tax relief program for land designated as farm related. Usually you need 10 acres but it can be less. Sort of complicated but it is called the CAUV, can find details just by web searching on CAUV OHIO. Most of the 50 states also have some version of this type program.

I grew up on such farms. The idea was to produce most of the family food themselves, make some income off produce and in most cases the father had a full time off farm job.

Lots of these type farms in SE Ohio. Many grow hay and / or cows of some type. Quite a number of Amish in the area. Land is not expensive compared to many other locations. I have seen small farms under $100K. The land in many places is not suitable for grains. In places like Jefferson County still lots of those type farms, usually less than 40 acres, there a lot of grains are grown. Also things like fruit, berries, nuts, etc.

The western and central part of Ohio tends to be bigger farms that are your classical type farm. Places like KY, TN and WV still might have a lot of the smaller farms. The areas that are more rugged in terrain will have the cheaper land. Places like SE Ohio with a lot of wooded land might be a way to get a cheap farm. Cut all the timber for lumber or firewood and then convert to farming. Land can still be bought in quantities of say 20 acres for under a $1000 per acre if you are patient.

Ohio counties in the eastern part of the state like say a block of land from Wooster south to Zanesville, over to Wheeling up to Columbiana will be prime territory for the smaller farms. Probably still a ton of them along Route 22 from Steubenville down toward Cambridge. Jefferson County can be prime for finding a well established zone of small farms, many of which have been in the same family for generations.

More important Ohio probably still has the support structure to allow small farms to exist. You need more than land, must be a network of suppliers, dealers, auctions, etc to provide the supplies and buy the produce. In many areas not much pressure from other uses to convert farms to say housing, factories or whatever. Many Ohio counties are still geared to support agriculture at less than the mega-size scale. Most will still have County fairs build around showing off farming as their theme.

Western Pa still might have some good areas. Areas all over WV.
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Old 10-20-2006, 01:49 AM
 
Location: Durham, North Carolina
774 posts, read 1,633,874 times
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Default THE most thought out reply I've ever gotten!

Thank you for the most thought out reply I've ever received. You've given me enough information to not only embark on a month's worth of research ... but to begin writing a short story! No ... it's not my story ... it's yours.

It would really be great reading! (I like the tone of it already.)

Thank you.
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Old 10-20-2006, 10:43 AM
 
1,104 posts, read 3,117,771 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by veganwriter View Post
NPR is doing a story on Changing America where once again, "Experts" are talking about how life is changing. But they're just touching on the changes in Small Town America.

Many of the mountain small towns that once were mining towns are now tourist destinations with expensive "2nd home" buyers pricing out many of the people the town needs to run the place.

But more important to me are all the other small towns and rural areas where town populations are shrinking. Can people talk about some of these small towns where there are "hobby farm" plots available (five to ten acres or more) and where the remaining population is open to once urban black professional couple moving to?

Most seem to be in the South (good ) and midwest (also good ... but some of them are also in the Rust Belt and even places like South Dakota.

What's open in your area?

There is an article on Yahoo today about retirement. It talks about "Hobby Farms." Says there are plans in the works around Jacksonville, FL.
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Old 10-20-2006, 11:26 PM
 
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Vegan - Interesting topic. Thanks for bringing it up.

Gram - I saw that yahoo article, too. It was very interesting. Never heard of anything like it before, but I believe it mentioned retired couples who want to grow a bit more than they can use, right? They weren't doing hobby farms for money, is that right? Very interesting way of life. I can't grow a plant, but it seems like growing some of our own food is a great idea. Not sure that it would be cheaper, but at least you can control what chemicals go into your dinner. I've even heard of kitchen gardens (or roof gardens, if you're lucky enough to have roof access) in large pots, for us city dwellers.

Some people just have naturally green thumbs. All my siblings are like that. I don't know what happened to me, unless it's just the simple fact that they all live in homes they own, where they have yard access & most live in country settings. Living in apt complexes, I just haven't had that kind of access. But, the older I get, the more I feel the need to seek out the country, even if it means making less money. City noise is just getting to me after so many urban years. I'm seriously considering returning to small-town PA where I was born & lived until a teen. The only problem is a job. Not many exist. We'll see... Maybe a yard garden is in my future!

Cosmic - What an interesting childhood you must have had? Did you grow up in either OH or PA? Do you still grow your own food, even on a smaller scale? People who can grow veggies are just amazing to me. I was born close to Amish country, so I vaguely remember the beautiful fields.

Thanks for the interesting read... Baltic_Celt
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Old 10-21-2006, 01:30 AM
 
Location: Durham, North Carolina
774 posts, read 1,633,874 times
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Default "Hobby Farm" Magazines!!

Guess what I found today ... several magazines published on just this topic. One is called, "Grit" and apparently it's an older publication ... orignally published back in 1891.

The second magazine is newer ... five years old. It's called, "Hobby Farms".

I've decided to quit working the Social Service Trenches and become a truck driver. I'm not married and I can save up some money while I look for just the right spot.

(...but I think I like Cosmic's term best ... "Truck Farms" ... feels ... right...
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Old 10-21-2006, 02:48 PM
 
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Default Well it is not a new subject

This general subject has been around for many, many years under different headings.

Things like self sufficient living, back to the land, utopian communities, independent movements, etc.

The general themes are usually the same. How to exist as an independent group and control their own lifestyle.

One big factor always was the question, How much land do you need??? A bit like it was a magic formula, of course the answer depends a lot on the climate and land quality.

One number very common was the idea of 40 acres. The olde 40 acres and a mule theme. In the 1930's this became one answer to the depression. Lots of "Experimental Farms", many were in Ohio and PA. Lots of exploring "How to Do it". The answers are a bit of common sense, but lots of "Experts" appeared with many books.

It boils down to if you have smaller acreage, grow higher value crops, use a lot of variety, both to spread risk but also to spread out the labor requirements over most of the growing season. Lower value crops, like grains tend to concentrate the labor required into peak periods.

It is found in many communities like the Amish today, they practice methods that actually can sustain a family in a pure agriculture method. Many Utopian attempts at building communities like the Shakers around an agriculture base.

I grew up in Ohio on such farms. They were designed to provide that cushion and support larger families. Easy to romancize but the kids were the farm labor, forget vacations. Many had extended family with many generations on the same farm. Many of the off farm jobs were interrupted by strikes at the work place. The farm did provide some protection from hard times, never was enough cash in good times. It was common practice to share things, be field hands to the larger farms. I saw the old steam threshers in action. Horses used in plowing, etc.. We knew everybody, went to a picturebook church close by on Sundays, it is still there, been restored, still used.

Lots of books by those who have "Rediscovered" that lifestyle. So I never thought of writing one. Mother Earth News (the magazine) was based around that concept of back to the land and recreating that experience usually with out the off farm job which was way too hairy chested for me. You don't have to fall very far to hit the skid plates in that type of lifestyle with the best methods.

The best part was being in total control of most of your life. The food was the best you could ever get. We bought very little at a store. You still need cash to buy lots of other things. I did continue growing a lot of my own food afterwards, even in a big city like Boston. Had fruit trees, berries, etc, a mini farm in the back yard, didn't need any instruction books, grew everything from seed. Had plenty to share, yummie soup, every fall from things planned to make veggie soup with beef. Big cookout, gallons of soup. I also canned a lot of stuff, we had parties in the winter with food made from "Real Stuff". People loved it. Always had a nice garden until the World went to Hell. The Real Estate Boom, changing neighborhoods and the destruction of the balance in critters where skunk, coons and the like invaded the cities. Killed off all the ground living drawf bumblebees that pollinated everything. Honey bees didn't fly soon enough.

Today I can't really grow a garden in Ohio either. Same thing critters gone wild. Especially the deer, like big rats, they raid anything, including flowers, eat all the fruit available.

I have thought about buying a small farm but also know what it is really like. Maybe will move to a better location for fruit trees, berries and a big garden. Would love to do some of that again. Canning season is always so much fun. Nothing like the fresh stuff right out of the garden.

Many big city type folks do get the "Back to the Land Bug". There are a number of them around me. SE Ohio is nice for that experiment because there are few controls in many counties as to exactly what is required in terms of permits and the normal hassles associated with buildings, barns, land use, etc. Once bitten by the bug it probably is very difficult to let go, especially if you can have that tad of cash flow critical to sustain the lifestyle. Retirement is a good fit, because most will have some retirement income.

The one final chuckle, I had not been back to the old country farm area for many years. One day my sister and I drove back thru the areas we grew up. Like a time warp, just about zero changes. Same family names of the mail boxes in the main, very little development, looked about the same. I guess once you find Paradise, can't be moved out with TNT. Many small farms are probably in the same family generation after generation. Once you "Buy the Farm", never give it up.

Web searching on subjects like self sufficient, back to the land, Utopian farming, Mother Earth News, just following your nose will turn up a zillion references. It didn't go away.
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Old 10-21-2006, 03:31 PM
 
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Cosmic -

Very interesting. Thank you for the education. Never having lived on farmland, I had no idea how it all worked. I have no desire to move in that direction, other than a small kitchen garden sometime in my future, but I find it fascinating.

There is somewhat of a city version of the "once you buy the farm, never give it up" concept. Around me are many families who own 3-decker woodframes that have been in their families, in most cases, since they were built. In great condition, but modest working-class folks can't afford to condo-convert so can't charge enough rent to turn profits. But, the rents do "keep the house going" - paying taxes, water, homeowner's insurance & that's about it. The benefit is all these homes are long paid off, so rent for the current owner is nil. They still have housing/living/maintenance expenses, but that carries over anywhere.

Now changes are evident, 120-yrs later as the mainly elderly widows who had these homes passed down to them over a couple of generations are headed toward nursing homes, their kids are long gone to the suburbs in western MA & don't want to move their kids into the city & those homes that their grandparents/parents purchased for $5K (quite a sum in 1890 when most were built) are now being converted to three $1/4 to 1/2-million condos/building.

The gentrification has pushed out a number of blue-collar folks who can no longer afford rents in the neighborhood they were born in/grew up in. And, the continual flipping means no one has any bloody idea who's living next to them anymore. Why get to know them? It will change hands in 1-1/2 yrs anyway as condo prices in my neighborhood increase drastically from year to year & the "old" lot sells out to the "new", & on & on...

Guess it's called commerce & progress & there's always someone who gets caught in the wheel & left beside the road. The good (& I guess there's always good with the bad) is the gentrification has cut down crime drastically. More upscale, individually-owned shops keep cropping up year after year. The neighborhood looks the same outside, but, one glance at realtor dot com & most of the interiors look like pages from Architectural Digest. Who would have thought that 10-yrs ago, these entire buildings were worth $138K/3-floors & now each floor has increased 3-5 times in value after renovation?!

And, like you, when I return to the tiny, little Pocono town I was born in, everything is still the same. Same families living in the houses, just newer generations as the old have died off. The houses still look the same. Same small schools.

I don't know what any of this really means, except that I'm now old enough to have continual "I remember when" references in my head. Time moves on, things change...

Thanks for the read... Baltic_Celt
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Old 10-23-2006, 12:35 AM
 
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Baltic_Celt thanks for that.

There is far more a connection to farmland, rural communities and triple deckers in Boston than you realize. A lot of the same forces are at work. It is not about prices and all the real estate buzz, it is more about money, price gouging and the destruction of the underlying communities that they prey on.

I know about the Boston 3-deckers very well. Worked on a lot of them. I generally knew and understood the communities around them. It varied a lot with the different neighborhoods. The saddest was Dorchester and what happened there during busing.

In fact that last blow-off phase and the conversions of 3-Deckers to condos was a very clear signal to me, run and run fast the end is near. Who would have ever thunk a 3-decker would be worth 1.4 million.

It is the same game played with about the same rules. Racket up the cost of living, attempt to find those who will pay and displace those who were there initially who can't afford it. The Hell with the affect on the neighborhood or what happens to the living conditions for everybody who manages to stay.

Same thing like the South End conversions at the start of the boom, only it was a sterile neighborhood that resulted, with all the crime that followed and eventually destoyed what they thought they came for initially.

The same thing is now happening in the more rural areas of the country. They are attempting to get another run with the same game. Basically it reached its limits in the big cities and busted. Nobody could afford it.

So they (speculators, real estate guru's, etc) fanned out looking for the next hot areas. One place they targeted was SE Ohio. Everything looked so, so very cheap.

When I moved out of Boston and bought my present house, you could find very cheap bargains, fair quality if you were choosy. Only two long time realtors in the area, both very low key, played the game the old fashion way. Generally they knew the limits, tried to find buyers local, things were cheap, in somewhat of a balance.

Boom comes a ton of carpet bagger type realtors. They quickly attempt to jack up prices 2 - 3 times. Start all sort of unethical games. The locals sort of took advantage of them, dumped a lot of horrible properties. The Newbies only looked at price. Many of those properties were not livable as was. The speculators (most who are also realtors) sucked up a lot of those properties using phoney games, buying with straw names, etc. Something selling for $20K is now marketed at $70K usually to outsiders. Very little has been selling. They usually do not disclose they have an interest as the seller.

This particular area is very sensitive to house quality. The better property(s) sells quick, usually to locals. Most of the houses need work. You must really understand it at a contractor level. The last people in the World to actually understand what they really have is the realtor types. It is almost a local joke with many.

They have attempted to use the locals to rehab a few. Kind of the flip this house game. Really laughable, the locals are totally incompetent and are just looking for a paycheck, any paycheck. None of them experienced or licensed at nothing. Lord, not enough paper in the pad to write up all the code violations.

You should see some of the so called renovations. One in particular "Described as Elegant".

So a lot what happened in Boston got tried to be exported as a road show. Remains to see how it is all going to work out. I will be looking to buy another house, maybe trade up from the one I have. It is so bad now that things must be sold at auctions. Many at what is called an absolute auction where in theory it could sell for $1. I want to see if the "Experts" continue to buy up some of these junkers.

If you thought those in Boston understood the game. Wrong, they just played in the major leagues where enough fans could keep paying higher and higher ticket prices. It is almost funny to see them attempt to play it in a far more rural setting. If anything they have become a victim of their own speals.

They may wave some cash at the locals but those prices ain't going to buy nothing most other places, even in Ohio. I am betting the locals sit tight and try to milk the game by selling all the trash they own.

After Boston, it is funny to see it at this level. I am betting it is happening all over the USA in the more rural areas. Buyer Beware, if you aren't a local or don't know the area in question.

Like Boston, they don't care what effect it has on the community at large, but I am sort of betting on the rubes to take the city slickers in this contest.

I don't think the same games will play. The buyer will need cash, most of it you can't get a loan, and nobody will insure it. Welcome to the minor leagues. If you got the cash, better be really doing your homework if moving out to the more rural / small town areas.
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