City slickers moving to the country - got any advice?

Slimy_Okra(2b)April 14, 2013

We've decided to expand our market gardening operation into something more serious. We found an affordable 100 acre parcel about 30 miles from the city (10 miles to the nearest village). This would be our first time living in the countryside, and of course the opinions of most of our friends and family is that we are insane. However, we really want to make this work.

I'm just wondering if there are any obvious things we should be aware of. Our irrigation needs will be taken care of by a municipal water line as well as rainwater catchment. There is also a pond. The land is gently rolling with loamy, well-drained soil, although there is a large flat area that would be good for initial planting. It's located five miles from a small valley (and above it) so it shouldn't be a frost pocket. Most of our planting will be in high tunnels and the rest will have deer fencing. We would also invest in a small tractor for clearing snow off the 'driveway', as well as for plowing land. We intend to use about 20 acres and rent the rest.

We don't have guns or dogs. We try to get away every year during December and January, so that makes owning a dog impractical.

Other things we'd have to invest in - walk in cooler, heated greenhouse for starting transplants, drip lines.

Do you have any tips or advice for us? Thank you.

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100 acres?? Wow - I'd give my eye teeth for 10. Land here is crazy high right now - the sold some about 20 miles from Dad's just sold for $15,000 an acre. That's just regular unimproved farm land, not for a subdivision or anything else. Just a big cornfield.

I assume you have a plan of attack for how your going to utilize that much ground. You could have a really good sized orchard, a huge set of fields for you market growing, room for a whole fleet of hoophouses. What about the other 90 acres?? Is it currently being farmed? Grazed?

Your going to need something a bit larger than a small tractor IMHO. Tractors are a lot like bank accounts - once you go to working with them they are never big enough. Especially if your working ground that has not seen the plow for some time. Just from a time on task standpoint larger equipment will pay off in the time it saves you.

As for country living in general, you'll love it. I would not want to live somewhere I could not go out to the mailbox buck naked (and I know what you all will be thinking tomorrow when you go out to get the paper). Get to know the neighbors - make a conscious effort to do so. Your going to be outsiders and that will take a while to get over. They are a valuable resource. You need to think ahead of things your likely to need - even ten miles from town your looking at probably an hour there and back getting what you need. That will eat up your time pretty quick. Bolts, nuts, washers, tiller belts, tire plugs, fuel, oil, parts for your irrigation system - all little things until you do not have them.

It sounds like you guys are in for a great adventure. Enjoy.


    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 10:21PM
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I would suggest good frost blankets for protecting tender plants and over wintering and heavy black plastic for the same on very cold nights use both. A rifle even a 22 cal is sufficient for most . Good luck!!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 1:16AM
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In addition to the items needed for the marketing venture, make sure that you are nice and not patronizing to your new neighbors. Ask for advice, after all, you're the newcomer and likely many have lived near for several years.

I've lived almost all my life near where I live now and have seen many "townies" move out here, then give up and move back within 3-5 years. They just couldn't take it.

First thing to start to do NOW before you move== make every trip to the grocery/whatever store count. Remember you are moving farther 'out' and those little trips that you might make now will be more gas and time away from your 'piece of heaven'. Enjoy the pizza delivery NOW because chances are you will not be in the delivery area after.

100 acres will be much more than you will ever need, unless you are planning on hiring help. Check out what else you might be able to do with the remaining land (lumber??) Even a big orchard probably would not take up all of the acreage, or at least not around here.

RESEARCH everything and try not to go into deep debt or any if that's possible.

Tom, totally agree with the privacy, but please don't get me thinking about the visual parts. LOL.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 10:04AM
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Thanks for the answers, folks. Much appreciated.

Most of the land is currently farmland (hay) and has a rental value of about $40/ac, although I'd have to find someone to rent it.
Tom, that $15000/ac value just blew me over! Out here, it's about $800 an acre although it does increase exponentially as one gets closer to the city. Within a 5 minute drive from the city edge, it's probably close to your figure.

I will do my best to be friends with the neighbors (there is one right next door and the next nearest is two miles away).
I plan to use lots of row covers to extend my season, a la Eliot Coleman style.
And I've already started fattening up on pizza. LOL :)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 1:36PM
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It sounds like there is some arrangement for someone to cash rent part of the ground. That makes sense. Depending on what the hay fields are you could have a gold mine for bees.

I hear you about that land price - it's just crazy. Granted it's some of the best ag land in the world - soil as black as coal, topsoil layer about three feet deep before you get to clay, almost zero rock, 200 bushel corn is just a so-so year. Most of the buyers are corporate/investment groups with deep pockets. It is my firm belief that it's a bit of a bubble that will eventually deflate (it happened back in the 70's and cost a lot of farmers their ground).

Marla - with my Adonis-like body I feel I am doing a service to the world. Now if your done choking on your coffee I'll tell you one of my favorite country living stories. I moved out here many years ago while I was in college. Had this big old Golden Retriever who was a real sweetie and quite well behaved. Late one night I was sleeping away sawing logs and he starts barking like the end of the world was upon us. Bark, bark, bark. I pulled the pillow over my head to no avail then started yelling. Bark, bark, bark. I yelled a little more. Bark, bark, bark. Ok, enough of that. I come flying out of bed cursing like a drunken sailor wearing not a stitch of clothes. Bark, bark, bark. Throw on the porch light, plow though the door and swear at the top of my lungs at the poor dog. Now I learned a lot of good curse words from Dad (he's pretty creative at that) so I called that hound everything but a Dutchman. He must have gotten the message as he laid down and wagged this bushy tail. Satisfied with my performance I turned to go back inside and to my shock standing on the other end of the porch are a young man and woman. Their eyes were the size of dinnerplates and mouths adroop. I made a mad dive for the front door and beat a hasty retreat for some pants. Turns out they had been out for a drive at 2 AM on a muddy dirt road in the middle of nowhere and stopped for some unknown reason (hehe) and gotten stuck. They came up to the house looking to find a phone to call for help. I got out the old International and went down and pulled them out. All was fine and good. Just as we were finishing up the girl walks over and says "You look familiar". Uh oh. Turns out she and I were in the same Psychology class. Finding that out was rather uncomfortable. What was really uncomfortable was Monday morning walking into that class where she waved hello and burst into laughter with half the class. Served me right I guess. By the way, I bought a bathrobe the next time I was in town.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 3:10PM
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Awesome story. I feel your pain. When I was in college, I worked a Special Olympics once. I approached this fellow, patted him on the back, and asked, When are you going to run?" He turned around, frowned, and said, "I'm one of the organizers." Needless to say, it was a little awkward meeting him on campus the rest of my stay.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2013 at 2:31PM
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LOL, Tom. It's good you saw the humor in the situation. I'd have been mortified.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 4:05PM
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