Greener Patures Her I come

hamons(Kansas City z5)February 11, 2011

My family and I are in the process of planning our migration to the country. We are currently your typical suburbanites living in Kansas City. I am a Second Grade teacher (taught for 12 years) and my wife stays home with our two daughters. In addition to teaching, I also own and operate a small landscaping business (

Our journey to the farm is propelled by what has become an ever-increasing draw to living and eating more simply and more cleanly.

However, we are now in the very scary stage of trying to figure out the best way to end this important Chapter of our lives and start the next with as few mistakes in between as possible.

Our current goal is to have this be my last year teaching and to be able to sell our current house and buy new land this summer.

I'm sure I will be asking lots of questions as we begin to look for more and more information.

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My main advice is take it very slow. We bought our land 15 years ago and finally moved on to it 5 years ago. Some of the things we learned as we were coming out to our land on weekends:

You can't plant a fruit orchard and expect it to still be there in two weeks when you come back. New wood is yummy for animals large and small.

Weeds grow very tall in the country. If you plant a garden, expect to have at least 4" of mulch everywhere you don't have something you want. Even then, the critters will dig up your new seedlings and eat everything including your plant stakes.

Don't leave your machinery untouched for weeks -- rodents/mink, ate all the electrical connections on a truck that we had to trash.

It would be fun for everyone to put in their 2 cents on this thread.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 9:46AM
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When I was younger I longed for the country life and eventually bought property way out in the middle of nowhere. On the surface it had all the dirt road charm you'd expect - great wide open views, lots of wildlife, total and complete privacy, ability to see the milky way at night... but then the long list of drawbacks emerged. Neighbors that decided running the largest meth lab in the county was a great way to make money, a water table the was deemed unsafe to drink from (new test for new toxins previously not known about, a big surprise to the entire nearby town, all wells had to be sealed up), extremely dangerous feral dogs - a deer hunter was attacked and almost killed in the woods beside my place, I had to prove before the courts that it wasn't my dog, and somehow through it all I kept getting hurt building the place and putting up fences - the nearest hospital was over an hour away.

I loved it for 12 years.

Now I live in a very rural "looking" neighborhood on the edge of the city. Just a couple of acres with a nice buffer of state owned woods between me and the rest of the world.

You can do it. It will be fun. You have to be careful and flexible - things don't always go smoothly.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 10:53AM
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Don't get scared. It will be a learning experience. I am a city girl who married a farm boy, I had to get use to not beable to go to town whenever I wanted,the worse was getting use to have supper ready @ any hour of evening. I've been married over 50 years and love the country. I had chickens[25o] pigs,horses,goats,sheep: you name it and I think we grew it. It was good for our children. I now have my dream===wide open spaces,had a big garden and now flower beds and my roses. It will be work but endure and enjoy.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 3:10PM
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hamons(Kansas City z5)

Our plan is to concentrate on grass fed livestock -- Pastured poultry, pigs, and sheep. We plan to sell directly to consumers.

The problem I see is how much capital we will need to make things float. As far as I can see -- if we start with chickens and pigs - while also starting a beef herd. We would be looking at a max of maybe earning a few thousand that first year after feed costs -- not enough to pay even a very small mortgage.

What experiences have other first time farmers had as far as the ability to start-up from nothing?

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 1:28PM
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oregonwoodsmoke(5 OR Sunset 1A)

It sounds like a wonderful adventure.

Around here, one spouse keeps a job with a paycheck to pay the property taxes. Or maybe an on-line job.

If you are buying in the country, make sure you get water rights and drinkable water. Make sure you get a legal recorded easement to your property.

Bringing power in costs a fortune, so if you want electricity don't buy unless the power is right to the property line. Electric "close by" isn't good enough. Bringing power even one block is extremely expensive.

Also: get septic inspected and water tested. Make that part of your offer. You can sometimes get the seller to pay for those (it's worth asking).

If you are planning on making a living growing, then don't settle for poor soil. Good soil costs more but it is much more productive and much easier to work with.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 3:53PM
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velvet_sparrow(Zone 5b, Gardnerville, NV)

Like others have said, be aware of things like septic takes and being on your own well rather than piped-in water. Do your homework as the the areas you'll be looking at and study what is going on there.

Moving to a small town can be a real culture shock--lots of people in small towns can be aloof, even hostile to newcomers that they consider outsiders so it can be tough to make new friends. On the other hand, once you get to know them they are the nicest people in the world. We had that experience when I was younger and we moved from southern California up to a small mountain town in northern California--people like us were referred to as 'flatlanders' and not welcomed. Of course once people get to know you and warm up to you things change, but if you encounter an attitude like this don't be surprised.

Velvet ~:>

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 5:12PM
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hamons(Kansas City z5)

Thank you for all of the advice - this gave me some things to consider.

At this point I am in the "paralysis by analysis" stage -- #1 concern is being able to support my family income wise.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 11:53AM
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I would suggest that you get the "free" copy of Acres USA and see if you want to subscribe. It is geared to sustainable farming (organic).
Something no one has mentioned is a soil test before you buy. Our state university does it here thru our local county extension service & ours costs $6...they are higher in other places and some don't do your county extension to find out.
Matter of fact, they might be able to give you lots of pointers & good information.
Since you are wanting to sell directly to the consumer, find out what the laws are for doing that..local, state & federal.
Someone needs to know how to do the books for a farm & what you need to keep records of.

Have you visited another farm that is doing what you want to do? That might be a good way to find lots of info.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 12:39AM
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When I was shopping for land to buy my father gave me great advice - stop shopping and buy something. You will always find a better deal later but if you don't make a move you'll never get started.

I would think that finding a small town in need of a school teacher wouldn't be all that hard. A landscaping biz out in the middle of nowhere will be harder to pull off but you could find a town with a "wealthier homes" section that will want landscaping services.

You might have to lower your standards as far as housing goes - a lot of rural homes on the market need work done.

All of what you are planning works best if you have other like minded people to go through it with. Old friends, new friends, relatives, or co-workers - just so you don't have to face everything all by yourself. You can also share in the costs of things by splitting the price with others. I had a charming place that friends and family members loved to come out and help with but it was so far away that they rarely had the time to make it out there enough to be of any help, and they always needed to leave soon after they got there because of the long drive home. I moved out there for the solitude but when building a house there are some tasks that one man cannot do, you have to have help.

My advice would be to find a small charming town that has a school and then look for acreage within an easy drive of that town.

If you have no money saved up for this adventure then you might look for an existing farm that needs on site workers.

Even if you try really hard and it all falls apart (like it did in my case) you will still learn so much in the process.
Don't be surprised if after many years of working hard you decide to go in a different direction - I have friends that are wildly successful long term organic farmers who have decided to turn their farm over to one of their employees. They plan to still live on the farm (off to the side) but to travel more and slow down. It sounds like defeat but they did it for 30 years and started with absolutely nothing.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 9:59AM
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hamons(Kansas City z5)

All great suggestions thank you.

Is there anyone here who started a new farm from scratch in the last few years who can share their story with us?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 10:26AM
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As far as finding a teaching job, our local schools have laid off the last 2 years.

I started our farm with next to nothing. Actually nothing but the land. I inherited the land. There was no buildings, no well, no septic, just land.

My husband kept working, and I have some temporary work, and that was our income.

We found a old mobile home that wasn't good enough to stay in that county, but could be lived in in our county. We paid a total of $1200(1999 money)and had it moved onto the farm. We packed drinking water for 10 years before we got running water, used a generator(s) for power for 8 years before getting electricity. We heated and cooked with kerosene heaters for the first 6 months until we were able to get a propane tank brought in.

The year after we moved onto the farm, we started going to the farmers market as vendors. We didn't make alot of money, but did pay for all expenses involving, including the veggies that I canned. This venture has increased throughout the years and now still pays all expenses, including the labor costs (our family)

I know this example is not what you have in mind, but it's what has happened in our real life. We still don't have much in the ways of buildings or lots of money, but we also don't have a mortgage or much debt. Of course, our credit score also sucks, since we don't use credit.

My advise is keep it small, and someone keep working at least part-time. Also, do it while you're young. Start collecting the tools that you will need while you're still in the city. Start to learn to preserve your food, even if you have to buy it, collect canning jars (cheaper in big towns since nobody knows what to do with them, yard sales are great).

If you don't mind living in the country and don't have to go to town every day or so, you will work hard and be grateful to have the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Plus the peace and quiet is great, and there are STARS.


    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 5:19PM
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We started ours from scratch about 6 years ago. I love it out here and don't care that shopping/hospital etc. is 60 min. away. We grocery shop once a month at a Sam's Club that is 2 hrs. away and usually go into town for milk/incidentals a couple of times a month.

Pastured poultry is fun and a great learning experience but don't plan to make a profit unless you live near a large city like Chicago. We could have made a go of it if the city wasn't 2 hrs. away ---- could have sold anything farm-raised there. Also, produce would have been profitable there but not in this country setting. Everybody wants a bargain and 'bargains' are hard to grow!

I raised and hybridized daylilies and made a decent living with those only because I sold them on the internet. If you are creative, you can live in the country and make a living but it probably won't be from your farm. The good part is that it only costs us a fraction of what it cost us to live in the suburbs of Chicago where our property taxes was more than my SS check.

That said, I love this quiet un-structured life!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 2:30PM
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"My advice is keep it small, and someone keep working at least part-time. Also, do it while you're young. Start collecting the tools that you will need while you're still in the city. Start to learn to preserve your food, even if you have to buy it, collect canning jars (cheaper in big towns since nobody knows what to do with them, yard sales are great)."

Good ideas! I'm look for tools at the Habitat for Humanity-ReStore. I've also found canning jars at thrift stores and Wal-mart.

A link that might be useful:

Habitat's ReStore resale outlets sell reusable and surplus building materials to the public

    Bookmark   February 20, 2011 at 8:11AM
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I don't know if I qualify as a farmer, I only have 18 acres and didn't buy the place until after I retired. I've had it since late 2007 and have added several varities of fruit trees, grapes and berries. It would have been nice to have bought it as a younger man but it gives me a goal and I love it. I have two yearling goats, a rabbit and am planing on chickens, ducks, worm farming and possibly bees.
The chickens, ducks and goats are to help in weed and insect control and I plan to install earthworms with hummus in holes around each of my fruit trees to amend my clay soil. Too bad I don't have anyone to look after it if I want to leave for a few days. That is the only draback, you won't be able to take any around the world cruises.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2011 at 9:30PM
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