If you’re like me, you might have a tendency to dive into what you want to do and then learn from your mistakes. But, when thinking of land purchases for a homestead or even something bigger, you need to start off carefully and avoid costly mistakes.
In this five-part series, I hope to help people consider some of the right questions to ask themselves. I hope it spurs your own thinking about making a land purchase. This series is driven by five questions. Each week I’ll explore one of these questions and I trust the exercise will be helpful to you.
The questions are:
What do I want?
Where will I do it?
How will I do it?
Who will do it?
Is this God’s will?
These are important questions because they are critical first steps when considering purchasing or taking on land for an agrarian lifestyle. Are these the only questions to ask? Of course not. But, I feel these five questions are important to get you started.
What do I want?
The first thing you need to settle on is what you desire. The short question, “What do I want?” is nothing short of existential. But I’m not asking about the meaning of life, just how you want to live it here on Earth.
If we begin by wanting to live within the Lord’s will, we begin well. From there, we can look to determine in what context God is calling you to follow His will. More on this in the last installment.
Having an idea of what you want helps you begin to formulate a vision. Do you want to operate an herb farm? How about an aquaponics tilapia operation with greens? Maybe dairy goats and hair sheep will be your thing. Maybe you want to do the more common option of developing a market farm.
Maybe you simply want to develop a sustainable homestead for your family or an entire community. Whatever it is you want, you have to define it pretty well so that understanding can inform your thinking about what kind of land works for your desire.
What do you love to do and what do you have an aptitude for? Those also are important assessments to make. As TV and radio personality Mike Rowe said, “Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.” I’m not saying you can’t start something you’ve never done before, but you better be able to get up to speed pretty quickly if your income or subsistence is depending on what you do on the land.
If you want to raise or grow something for sale, the most important question is what kind of existing market is there for what you may want to produce. Having an entrepreneurial spirit is vital. Yet, you really need to have a clear picture of how the markets you want to play in work. Is your area already saturated with farmers’ markets? If so, then a market farm is likely to struggle unless you can provide some differentiating element to what you do.
If you are buying land to grow crops, what you want to grow will place certain demands on the land. The same is true for animals if you want to raise livestock. You need to understand the land requirements of these endeavors when you begin searching for a place. This seems like common sense, but too many people make mistakes in this area.
However, what you want may be altered by the time and resources you have. It can be the time it will take you to get started from scratch. Time can also be the amount of personal time you have to devote to your land. Maybe you only have time after 6 pm because you work an off-farm job. Time can even be how much life you have left in front of you. Accurately knowing how much time you have to give will be important to defining what you want.
Resources are more than financial. Labor is a huge issue. You cannot plan for more work than you have labor to do it. You need to know how many people will happily work on the land and what amount of labor they will contribute. Forcing a spouse to be a farmer or gardener when they don’t want to will be a bad recipe. Asking brooding teens to clean chicken coops or weed a garden may not work out. Being away at a day job may make ends meet financially, but if the chores don’t get done things can fall apart quickly.
Do you have knowledge resources you can tap into? Yes, the internet can help to a degree. But, if you are new to subsistence homesteading or farming, a voice of experience is critical, especially if that experience has the same philosophy and ethic you do. Find a mentor with whom you can discuss your ideas.
What you want can only be answered by you. But, be sure you are matching what you want with the reality of what’s possible before you figure out what kind of land you may want to buy.