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Old 08-30-2008, 03:25 PM
 
22 posts, read 143,183 times
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Is it possible to run a farm anymore? Where would be the best place to do it? Wisconsin? Maine??

Any type of horticulture, dairy, or sheep farm.

I am learning construction trades right now in hopes to make it in a small, rural town one day. I would like to live on a farm somewhere and build a house on that land or even renovate an old fixer.
I wouldn't mind having a self sufficient lifestyle of growing my own food.

I just want to live far away from metropolitan or suburban areas no matter the work load or lack of convenience.
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Old 08-30-2008, 06:54 PM
 
Location: The Woods
17,089 posts, read 22,607,566 times
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Well I'm going about setting up a subsistence farm or "homestead"....so yeah, it's possible, but if you're looking at a farm for income and not just to survive, you'd need something bigger than what I'm doing on 20 acres. The problem with setting up a profitable farm is the price of land, equipment, etc., all fo which will put you in piles of debt unless you have a good wad of cash to start with. And you still may very well go under unless you can adapt quickly to changes (for example, if milk isn't making enough money to stay afloat, find something that will and switch to it fast without losing too much money, quite the feat many times). Those who are creative, hard working and intelligent may do quite well at farming. More people don't than do though. Unfortunately the big industrial type farming giants have pushed smaller farms to the edges in many ways. They've gotten laws passed that favor them, and are actively looking for more, such as NAIS.

Best state? Depends on what you're interested in doing, what you're willing to put up with as far as regulations and taxes, climate, etc. Alaska is a great state for a subsistence oriented person like myself, but not so for most farmers, between the short growing season, long winters, limited selection as far as crops go, distance from markets, limited amount of private land available...my home state of VT is known as an agricultural state but it's far less than ideal for farming, as the number of farms lost every year shows...for many reasons, the taxes being one (though taxes are better for farmers than simple residences), expensive land, rocky soil (I swear no matter what you do you'll always find rocks every year in VT, I find more rocks than potatoes sometimes when I go to dig them up, despite lots of work spent getting them out earlier in the year), lack of much flat land, somewhat short growing season...every place has negatives and positives, so, figure out precisely what you're after before deciding.
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Old 08-30-2008, 08:05 PM
 
22 posts, read 143,183 times
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This is basically a later in life plan. I'm younger now, in my 20s. The top states of interest in no particular order would be Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Idaho. I like new england, especially pumpkin season.

I have a long line of farmers in my family. We farmed in northern NJ for generations, but the continuing sprawl and expansion from Manhattan has made it impossible.

I don't mind if I make enough to just get by, I just don't want to be within reach of a metropolis.

Alaska has always been an appealing state. It's a big state, where do you plan on living?? What will you farm?
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Old 08-30-2008, 08:36 PM
 
Location: The Woods
17,089 posts, read 22,607,566 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by upatthecape View Post
This is basically a later in life plan. I'm younger now, in my 20s. The top states of interest in no particular order would be Maine, New York, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Idaho. I like new england, especially pumpkin season.

I have a long line of farmers in my family. We farmed in northern NJ for generations, but the continuing sprawl and expansion from Manhattan has made it impossible.

I don't mind if I make enough to just get by, I just don't want to be within reach of a metropolis.

Alaska has always been an appealing state. It's a big state, where do you plan on living?? What will you farm?
I'd definately avoid NY entirely. New Hampshire is rather expensive also but not nearly as bad as NY. Maine would be good but keep in mind the growing season you'll have there. I can't comment on WI or ID.

The biggest enemy will be debt. A crop failure is a bad thing without debt, with debt, it may mean losing the farm. I would also suggest you diversify, don't rely on one thing on your farm but have multiple things. For example, you may grow some grain or raise livestock or run a dairy farm, but also have orchards, make syrup, etc., for extra income and food sources.

My land is North of Fairbanks, about 150 miles by road. Not too easy to access but not too bad by Alaska standards, since there is at least road access (sort of). There are no property taxes because it's in an unincorporated area, but you need to be in a relatively remote area for that to be the case. As I said, it's a subsistence farm. I'll mainly only grow what I need to survive (vegetables, a little grain for myself and some chickens, what fruits will grow there which is a bit limited but includes my favorites like blueberries), leaving much of the land wooded to supply firewood. Hunting will provide some meat as I don't have enough land to raise large livestock, supplying all their feed (feed would be very expensive to buy up there), and still supply my own firewood (winter is long and cold in the Interior of Alaska). It's one or the other with that and I chose firewood, nature supplies meat pretty well up there for just the cost of a hunting license and a bullet. I'll also do some trapping for income during the winter. I plan on beekeeping but whether or not that becomes profitable, I'll have to see, it'll be mainly for my use (honey and beeswax). Most beekeepers up there, it turns out, just buy new bees every year because of the problems the long winter causes. I'm more interested in self-sufficiency than making any money.
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Old 08-31-2008, 06:08 AM
 
9,807 posts, read 13,682,398 times
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It takes money to get started farming.

A neighbor of mine got interviewed in an ag newspaper and was asked what advice he would give farm boys wanting to start farming

His answer was----"be nice to your dad because that is probably the only way you can get started in farming"
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Old 08-31-2008, 06:44 AM
 
9,807 posts, read 13,682,398 times
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Another bit of advice would be to first start working where you are to accumulate some money.

Moving to a new area and wanting to borrow money w/o farming experience will get you no where.

Bankers look at debt to assets ratio and ability to re-pay any loans.

Without a "track record" of showing success it will be difficult to obtain financing.

If you have a lot of money already, then fulfilling your fantasies is no problem.
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Old 08-31-2008, 08:18 AM
 
Location: Backwoods of Maine
7,213 posts, read 8,373,561 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by upatthecape View Post
This is basically a later in life plan. I'm younger now, in my 20s.
If this is something you really want to do, buy your land NOW, or SOON. If you wait until you are 40 or 50, the prices will be ten times higher. I could kick myself for not having bought several acres back when I was younger. That said, consider buying for cash. At least, if you must finance, do it soon, so it will be paid off whenever "later in life" happens.


Quote:
Originally Posted by upatthecape View Post
I don't mind if I make enough to just get by, I just don't want to be within reach of a metropolis.
All of the states you have mentioned are "within reach of a metropolis". If they were not, nobody would live there, as the land would be inhospitable for farming or anything else. Hard even to find anything like that nowadays. Your best bet is to find on a map, those cities of a size that you wish to get away from, and circle each one to about 3-400 miles in diameter, which is basically a gas tank away. If you are thinking of a doomsday scenario, a full tank away would greatly lessen the number of people who could reach you.

That said, consider the benefits of a small rural community. People there are not like city folks. They know and cooperate with each other. A nice small community of people who look out for each other is about the safest you can get. If you just want to be a hermit, try Canada!
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Old 08-31-2008, 08:58 AM
 
Location: Forests of Maine
31,146 posts, read 50,309,418 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by upatthecape View Post
Is it possible to run a farm anymore? Where would be the best place to do it? ...
Yes.

I am doing it.

I see others around me doing it as well.

Maine had a very active Organic group [MOFGA - Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Assoc] in the 70's that formed and setup their own Organic Certification system, training, self-policing, etc. so the state back then completely deferred to MOFGA. This was long before any other state got into defining 'Organic', or certifying.

Only in the past 3 years has MOFGA allowed the state to get into the role of over-seeing farming.

MOFGA sponsors an annual fair, 3 days of workshops of rural self-sufficient farming methods and lifestyle. And through-out the year, farms will have open-house days, where they let folks come in and learn/help them do specific tasks. These are scheduled through MOFGA, so each month's MOFGA newsletter lists them and talks about which skills are being taught at each.

They also have an 'apprenticeship' program. Apprentices live on farms while learning farming methods. Apprentices become Journeymen. The same network also has a list of Journeymen who are looking for established farms to take over. This system keeps farm land functioning as farm land. though often a farm will have fell into dis-use for decades before the family will seriously consider putting it into such a program.

Maine has a network of Farmer's Markets. Each is unique. Some are sponsored by a town's Chamber of Commerce, so the local politicos control the FM. Other FMs are groups of farmers who form together so they control their own rules.

This gives you some 'FM's that are open to crafts or junk; while other FMs are only food [ie, veggies, meats, milk, eggs, cheese, ... ].

Maine also has CSAs, and a big network of CSAs.

We have family farms, we have communal farms, we have farms that are partnerships.

I retired from the US Navy in 2001, I found land in Maine, moved here and began building a farm house in 2005. I got into an Organic FM in 2007.

There are a lot of 'beginning' farmers in Maine. We need more.

2 cheesemakers have tried to get me to become a cheesemaker. The Maine Cheesemaker's Guild is growing, but they can not cover the demand. And the State Tourism and Commerce folks want more local Artisan cheeses for export. But among the cheesemakers, they sell-out every week. So there is no extra available for export.

I have chickens, goats, and pigs. I live in a forest, I am converting forest of mixed-woods to all maple, so one day we can begin sugaring. I am growing ginseng underneath the forest canopy. I have a greenhouse and a large garden. I also harvest about 100 pounds of fiddleheads each year.

Did I mention that I have bees?
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Old 09-01-2008, 12:10 AM
 
Location: rain city
2,958 posts, read 11,463,848 times
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We had about 5 acres in Texas and the land had some *issues*. I went to the county agricultural extension office to ask some simple questions and see if they had any experience with some of the problems I was having.

The first thing the lady asked me was "How many acres do you have?" I answered five. She told me that it was too bad, their programs only dealt with parcels of ten acres or more.

So I asked her what she meant. She told me that their purpose was to assist land owners with ten or more acres to maintain their farms. That the government would subsidize farms "larger than 10 acres not to grow anything."

So I went home in excitement and told my husband we needed to buy five more acres pronto and the government would pay us not to grow things on it. That it wasn't enough that we were not growing anything on our five acres now, we needed five more not to grow things on. What a revelation, such a brilliant concept! How did I not see this before?

Sadly, we were never able to afford another five acres and thusly were never eligible for the government assistance to not grow things.

So yes, it is entirely possible to be a small farmer on 20 acres and make it. You just fill out the forms and swear you're not growing anything and somehow the Dept. of Agriculture will pay you for that. Think big! Get 40 acres and do nothing with it, double the profits! The mind boggles with possibilities.
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Old 09-01-2008, 08:03 AM
 
Location: Forests of Maine
31,146 posts, read 50,309,418 times
Reputation: 19849
Quote:
Originally Posted by azoria View Post
We had about 5 acres in Texas and the land had some *issues*. I went to the county agricultural extension office to ask some simple questions and see if they had any experience with some of the problems I was having.

The first thing the lady asked me was "How many acres do you have?" I answered five. She told me that it was too bad, their programs only dealt with parcels of ten acres or more.

So I asked her what she meant. She told me that their purpose was to assist land owners with ten or more acres to maintain their farms. That the government would subsidize farms "larger than 10 acres not to grow anything."

So I went home in excitement and told my husband we needed to buy five more acres pronto and the government would pay us not to grow things on it. That it wasn't enough that we were not growing anything on our five acres now, we needed five more not to grow things on. What a revelation, such a brilliant concept! How did I not see this before?

Sadly, we were never able to afford another five acres and thusly were never eligible for the government assistance to not grow things.

So yes, it is entirely possible to be a small farmer on 20 acres and make it. You just fill out the forms and swear you're not growing anything and somehow the Dept. of Agriculture will pay you for that. Think big! Get 40 acres and do nothing with it, double the profits! The mind boggles with possibilities.
That is just so very wrong.
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