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Old 06-21-2016, 11:32 AM
 
Location: Somewhere in northern Alabama
18,531 posts, read 55,444,914 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chistery View Post
Some knowledgable people weighed in with good advice, but I wonder why there is the tendency to be so caustic in the process. The question is being asked for a reason- the person is asking for a reality check. Why that can't be done without nastiness is pretty sad.
Also, I think that it's clear that Vermont is the heart's desire. Maybe there are ways to scale back or otherwise adaptively modify the original farm dream. I also thought that some states reduce tax for agricultural lands. At least check VT law. Leaving CA might be a good choice. It's not cheap and growing population and tendency to drought will be interesting to observe in future years.
I doubt that absolutely no one has hobby farms in VT- pretty sure some people manage somehow to farm and survive, and maybe Google search for those places can yield more location-specific answers, which would be preferable in any case to people who are experts, but are also reflexively obstructionist and really snotty. Maybe read some Salatin for inspiration.
Although this post is a bit old and from a one-time poster, it deserves a response. I've been on various forums and usenet groups since the 1980s and Compuserve days. Invariably, there are a few basic types of people who post, and those groups overlap from time to time. There are dreamers, people who have been "in the trenches" with battle stories, book knowledge folks, trolls, arguers and battlers, newbies, chatters, the TOTALLY clueless, and those who attempt to be etiquette and spelling enforcers.

Before Alta-vista, Yahoo, and Google, a lot of stuff could only be answered by seeking out a group or forum and asking questions. Today, Google is amazingly improved to the point that a question can be asked and reasonable responses and resources come up in the search results. That puts a burden upon the people who post a question - is this something I could easily find out on my own based upon facts readily available, or do I ask a group for opinions? In some cases, original posts are not well-considered or even passingly researched before posting. Wasting the time of group members on such questions can be rude.

The original post in this thread shows a curious combination of a certain type of fairly advanced agricultural knowledge and yet an almost complete lack of understanding of the differences in the viability of agriculture in different zones and settings. As such, the assumptions of the OP had the potential to do the family great damage. It was a valid question originally posted in the Vermont forum, and deserved candid and honest answers - which were BOUND to be negative towards the idea of starting a farm in the state.

What etiquette enforcers see as "rude" are cold hard facts, presented as cold hard facts in the face of a dreamer or newbie, often as a counter to their unworkable dream. That is not "rude" but education and a sharing of realities to be expected. If a person has a dream of having a milk cow in the back yard, it is anything BUT rude to point out that a cow requires gallons of water a day, lots of roughage and some protein, has the possibility of certain diseases, and creates a lot of pasture patties and usually flies. Knowing those facts may totally destroy the dream, but no cow is mistreated or starved, no money is wasted, no neighbors are ticked off.

To become a reality, every dream has to face up to the fact that fantasy and reality are two entirely different things. Encouraging a dreamer to go into a situation that could easily bankrupt them, physically hurt them, or simply be a horrible choice, simply because you want to be polite and supportive is, in fact, about the RUDEST thing you can possibly do. A doctor who refuses to properly set a broken arm because the momentary pain might be intense is no doctor. A friend who says nothing to their friend about an addiction problem is no friend.

As for my cousin who owned and operated a farm in Vermont from an early age until recently? He just died - only three years into retirement from that "idyllic" backbreaking and financially unstable life. Now THAT is rude. His son can not afford to farm, due to the economics of agriculture in the state. Now THAT is reality. After five generations of farming in the family, this is the end.

My revised advice to anyone planning on farming in Vermont? Do your homework and if you still think it practical, rethink and rethink again. Taking positive advice from a poster like Chistery, who ADMITS to having ZERO real knowledge, but comes in to discount those who do as "nasty, obstructionist, and snotty," is a huge error.
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Old 05-04-2017, 12:28 AM
 
256 posts, read 174,894 times
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Hey I'm back! In case anyone wants an update.

I am still in California, sigh. However, we are finally at long last moving east. Yes, my horizons have narrowed quite a bit. I tried hard to move, but my husband just wouldn't budge. He doesn't like change of any sort, and for awhile I despaired. I couldn't even get him to retire.

What changed him was that our daughter settled in western Massachusetts (Northampton), most likely for good. She's getting married there to someone with a tenured job in that town. She also has found a good job in her field there. It's their home. So, after some years of 3000 mile trips, we are moving house to be closer. We have a realtor looking for property for us now.

We're shopping for a small cleared acreage where we can have a small house built and can have a few animals and some apple trees. Near one of the nicer hill towns in MA but within reach of 91 so we can scoot down to Northampton when we want. In the past few years I have lost a lot of energy. but on the other hand real estate prices out here are just about triple what they are in rural New England, and we also inherited some money. Once we sell our house here, we will have all the cash we need for a modest rural life without needing to work.

I haven't yet spent an entire winter in western MA, but if we run out of patience for it we can simply go somewhere warmer for a couple months. So things are easier in some ways, but harder in others -- we have to consider our aging process.

I have had dreams I could not fulfill, but I have not regretted my time here either. I'm looking toward a milder but still rather enormous adventure. I've lived in this spot for almost thirty years and in this town for forty, and in this area for sixty. I'm way more than ready to do something quite different. It won't be farming. I'm not strong enough even if I don't have to make a profit on it. But I have a horse now, and will probably keep dairy goats again, and poultry. I'll grow some potatoes, and pick berries. Or something similar.
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Old 05-04-2017, 01:14 AM
 
Location: too far from the sea
20,671 posts, read 19,624,090 times
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You're lucky if you have the money to get away for a while during WMass winters. But those hill towns are pretty and relaxing. However, you must be able to drive well in snow and the hills make it worse than it is around Northampton.

How about Southampton? It's one of the prettiest towns without being out in the hills. As I say, the only bad thing about those hills is getting in and out in the ice and snow of winter. I used to enjoy Westhampton, just at the edge of the hill towns. But even though I only lived a few miles from it, I don't think I ever drove out there in winter. My car flew off the road right in Northampton one time as I drove on a part of the road that hadn't yet been hit by enough sunlight to melt the black ice.

Goats, berries, chickens, all are easily possible and much more practical in retirement than an actual farm, as you have already realized. Won't it be wonderful to be near your daughter!

There's a lot to do in that area so just make sure you live close enough in, that you can get to things. Shows at the Academy of Music, great restaurants, shopping--and much more, all in Northampton. Welcome to New England!
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Old 05-04-2017, 03:53 AM
 
11,257 posts, read 44,307,352 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sombrueil View Post
(snip) But I have a horse now, and will probably keep dairy goats again, and poultry.
RE: "heading to warmer" place during the winter:

Your horse and livestock will require all their normal daily care/feeding in your absence, unless you plan on taking them with you to an alternate winter location.

Finding trustworthy, reliable resources to deal with them back at your home farm during your winter absence may be a challenge, let alone a significant expense.

It's one thing to have somebody come by and feed your horse and make sure it's got access to fresh water, and shelter, if needed, and check on it's condition/health, and keep a stall/run cleaned up for sanitation/health issues. Maybe a neighbor will board your horse with full service for a nominal fee.

Similarly, somebody coming by to feed/water and keep your poultry area is another set of chores.

But it's quite a stretch to have somebody provide full care and milking for your dairy goats. Unless you've got a neighbor who can and will provide those services in your absence, you'll likely not be leaving your "farm" for any extended winter-time frame.
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Old 05-04-2017, 08:53 PM
 
256 posts, read 174,894 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
RE: "heading to warmer" place during the winter:

Your horse and livestock will require all their normal daily care/feeding in your absence, unless you plan on taking them with you to an alternate winter location.

Finding trustworthy, reliable resources to deal with them back at your home farm during your winter absence may be a challenge, let alone a significant expense.

It's one thing to have somebody come by and feed your horse and make sure it's got access to fresh water, and shelter, if needed, and check on it's condition/health, and keep a stall/run cleaned up for sanitation/health issues. Maybe a neighbor will board your horse with full service for a nominal fee.

Similarly, somebody coming by to feed/water and keep your poultry area is another set of chores.

But it's quite a stretch to have somebody provide full care and milking for your dairy goats. Unless you've got a neighbor who can and will provide those services in your absence, you'll likely not be leaving your "farm" for any extended winter-time frame.
Horse can be boarded (but I have a friend with a horse set-up in North Carolina! We are already discussing this). Goats are usually dried off in winter. Farm-sitters are a thing. I've used them before out here. It's not hard to feed goats and hens. In any case, the goats are an idea I may give up, depending. I like having them, I raised goats for ten years, but I'm also looking for more ease in my life. Something goats rarely add. Charm yes ease no. Maybe I'll stick with an apple orchard. That, you definitely can leave in the winter.

I also may find I really like winter. Some people do. When I spent two weeks in the Pioneer Valley in February I loved it. Plus, I am always working on art/craft projects. Maybe that will be my time to focus on them.
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Old 05-04-2017, 10:55 PM
 
11,257 posts, read 44,307,352 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sombrueil View Post
Horse can be boarded (but I have a friend with a horse set-up in North Carolina! We are already discussing this). Goats are usually dried off in winter. Farm-sitters are a thing. I've used them before out here. It's not hard to feed goats and hens. In any case, the goats are an idea I may give up, depending. I like having them, I raised goats for ten years, but I'm also looking for more ease in my life. Something goats rarely add. Charm yes ease no. Maybe I'll stick with an apple orchard. That, you definitely can leave in the winter.

I also may find I really like winter. Some people do. When I spent two weeks in the Pioneer Valley in February I loved it. Plus, I am always working on art/craft projects. Maybe that will be my time to focus on them.
the fallacy of your paradigm for months of winter livestock care/farm-sitters is that you've left out the realities of dealing with WINTER climes. It's several orders of magnitude more challenging to keep facilities, water, and infrastructure for livestock functional, operational, and safe than in a moderate winter climate area. The concern here is finding all those reliable, trustworthy, competent people ... and at what cost? ... that you think is a walk in the park to locate.

Good luck with that.

As well, you can do all your dreaming about winter living and livestock care ... but the proof is in the doing it successfully and actually enjoying it. Yes, it's possible that you'll look forward to a winter, but doing it every year is an acquired taste and chore. There's a reason why so many folk "snowbird" from their farms as they get older. You may yet find out why for yourself. Do a frank assessment of your physical abilities, desire for recreation and entertainment, access to shopping/medical/necessities ... and the reality may shift a bit during the winter months.

I see this all the time in our winter clime, although our winters do last longer at altitude than you'll see in New England. The "gone in two" syndrome hits a lot of people who'd thought that winter was a piece of cake until they had to live with it. Spending a vacation week or two in a winter environment in no way prepares you for the months of living with it and livestock. Again, I wish you all the best in your relocation ... but you might want to consider leasing a place for a year before making a longer term commitment to such a venture.

PS: remember what you wrote in your 1st post? "Emphasis will be on low labor and capital input" for a retirement. What you're fantasizing here doesn't fit that concept. Post #2 ... ArticHomesteader's response pretty well nailed the realities of VT for you, too.

Last edited by sunsprit; 05-04-2017 at 11:07 PM..
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Old 05-04-2017, 11:07 PM
 
Location: Silicon Valley
18,467 posts, read 23,954,974 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunsprit View Post
the fallacy of your paradigm for months of winter livestock care/farm-sitters is that you've left out the realities of dealing with WINTER climes. It's several orders of magnitude more challenging to keep facilities, water, and infrastructure for livestock functional, operational, and safe than in a moderate winter climate area. The concern here is finding all those reliable, trustworthy, competent people ... and at what cost? ... that you think is a walk in the park to locate.

Good luck with that.

As well, you can do all your dreaming about winter living and livestock care ... but the proof is in the doing it successfully and actually enjoying it. Yes, it's possible that you'll look forward to a winter, but doing it every year is an acquired taste and chore. There's a reason why so many folk "snowbird" from their farms as they get older. You may yet find out why for yourself. Do a frank assessment of your physical abilities, desire for recreation and entertainment, access to shopping/medical/necessities ... and the reality may shift a bit during the winter months.

I see this all the time in our winter clime, although our winters do last longer at altitude than you'll see in New England. The "gone in two" syndrome hits a lot of people who'd thought that winter was a piece of cake until they had to live with it. Spending a vacation week or two in a winter environment in no way prepares you for the months of living with it and livestock. Again, I wish you all the best in your relocation ... but you might want to consider leasing a place for a year before making a longer term commitment to such a venture.
Couldn't agree with you more. I had acreage and farm animal in Wa and it's no walk in the park in winter. I would raise pigs until fall, but kept my horse. Was a huge pain.

I also knew a lot of people but the idea of finding someone to take care of my horse while I was away (in my sparsely populated area), would have been pretty much impossible.

The snow birds I know from WA and Canada just don't have animals that need to be cared for over winter anymore.
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Old 05-08-2017, 11:28 PM
 
256 posts, read 174,894 times
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Gee, people are so crabby here. Nor do they read all that carefully.

I never thought winter would be a piece of cake. I don't know where people get this crazy idea about me. It is possible to keep a horse in winter in New England, because people do it all the time, and I talk to them about it. It isn't all that fun, but it is doable. Recommendations from real people include putting a frost-free hydrant in your barn, as one of the biggest challenges is keeping liquid water in front of your horses. Just as an example.

Snowbirding is another option, and taking my horse with me is not at all out of the question. We have a lot of family and friends in North Carolina and Virginia.

I may be inexperienced with New England winters but no one, ever, in my entire life, has thought me stupid, the way this board seems to. Idiosyncratic, yes. Adventurous, yes. Nor am I impractical, or head-in-the-clouds. I do dream big, but I rescale very easily.

Fact is, we have in the past few years explored many different options about relocation (and staying where we are, as well). We are deep researchers. The winters are going to be difficult, but compared with all the other options we can imagine for ourselves, we decided they are worth braving.

But enough. There is so much active dislike here that it makes no sense to me to continue this thread. Go find someone else to pour ice water on.
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Old 05-09-2017, 09:51 AM
 
4,315 posts, read 2,667,018 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sombrueil View Post
Gee, people are so crabby here. Nor do they read all that carefully.

I never thought winter would be a piece of cake. I don't know where people get this crazy idea about me. It is possible to keep a horse in winter in New England, because people do it all the time, and I talk to them about it. It isn't all that fun, but it is doable. Recommendations from real people include putting a frost-free hydrant in your barn, as one of the biggest challenges is keeping liquid water in front of your horses. Just as an example.

Snowbirding is another option, and taking my horse with me is not at all out of the question. We have a lot of family and friends in North Carolina and Virginia.

I may be inexperienced with New England winters but no one, ever, in my entire life, has thought me stupid, the way this board seems to. Idiosyncratic, yes. Adventurous, yes. Nor am I impractical, or head-in-the-clouds. I do dream big, but I rescale very easily.

Fact is, we have in the past few years explored many different options about relocation (and staying where we are, as well). We are deep researchers. The winters are going to be difficult, but compared with all the other options we can imagine for ourselves, we decided they are worth braving.

But enough. There is so much active dislike here that it makes no sense to me to continue this thread. Go find someone else to pour ice water on.
This is a very typical OP here at City-Data.
Someone starts a thread under the guise of seeking opinions but what they really want is only approval of their plan.


I have not read a single reply to the OP that even came close to being hostile.


Every one of them offered good advice and most gave that advice from the experiences that you have not experienced,
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Old 05-09-2017, 09:53 AM
 
4,315 posts, read 2,667,018 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sombrueil View Post
My husband and I are looking at early retirement in a couple years (he's 4 years older than me and will be retiring at 60) and moving from California to my "dream farm". We're considering several states, and right now Vermont seems to be highest on the list. So that's what this query is about.

First, the dream farm idea: we will probably have enough money from selling our house here to buy a good-sized farm, around 50-100 acres. We won't need to make a living from farming, thank God, but whatever we raise will have to at minimum pay for itself and hopefully produce a modest profit. Most likely it will be some combination of pastured handspinning wool sheep and meat goats. I am a livestock gal, but cattle are too big and expensive, and dairying is too laborious. Emphasis will be on low labor and capital input, so, fewer machines, buildings and grain, more rotational grazing, grass-finished (if possible), and living/lambing out. This is, after all, retirement.

We are not exactly city slickers, having cleared our land, built a house (just the two of us plus a couple friends), and gardened and raised meat and dairy goats at a hobby level. We are used to doing things like fixing the well pump, getting up our own firewood, and mending fences. But we aren't really farmers. We neither intend to "live off the land" in romantical fashion nor enter into commodity farming. Both are, frankly, beyond our energy level.

Being a northern California native (for all you non-west coasters, that makes a big difference -- I've been to LA twice in my whole life), I have big questions about, well, snow. But we are both drawn to New England, for the particular cultural style, the sense of history, the tradition of small scale mixed farming (absent in CA and in most of the West), and of course, its beauty.

Our daughter who is in college in PA, seems very inclined to stay back East permanently, which figures large in our decisionmaking process too.

Our other top contender in location (at the moment anyway) is the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Arable land prices are rather comparable to Vermont there. The growing season is far longer, and it has the advantage of far more familiarity in climate and culture, my extended family are a day's drive away, I have friends there -- but we are kind of thinking we are more adventurous than that. All the other baby boomers in California seem to be planning to retire to a hobby farm in the Willamette Valley, for one thing-- a scary thought. On the other hand, property taxes in Vermont appear to be something like quadruple Oregon's. Not an insignificant fact.

So, the question would be, for those with experience, what are the chances of us being happy in Vermont, with the fantasies we are currently running? Think it's stupid for people with gray hair to move to such a cold climate? What kind of problems do you think we'll encounter if we go for it? What considerations are the most important (besides soil quality, which is of course paramount)?

Inquiring minds want to know . . .


(2nd to last paragraph)


You asked for a lot of advice/opinions.


People gave them.
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