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Starting my retirement planning for a homestead/food forest. Need advice. Disabled Veteran

 
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I’m readying for retirement in the next 1-3 years and I’m looking to start a food forest/homestead. I’m a disabled veteran so i get an annual income of roughly $40k. So I’ve been researching for the past few months and have taken plenty of notes on food forests and raising livestock (chickens, quail, squab, ducks, sheep, pigs, fish, etc. are possibilities) . I have a long list of fruit and nut trees that can grow along with all the veggies. I’m also looking at bamboo and some other multiple use fast growing trees/bushes. I focused a good amount of time on reaching how to make great mulch, worm farms, and even maggots to feed chickens, canning, etc. I’ve gotten pretty detailed but there is always more info to add. So I’m specifically looking for first hand knowledge/experiences in the planning stages when looking for properties (I’m looking for 10+ acres in MS or AL), and what kind of heavy machinery is most needed/wanted and what, if anything, you would have done different. I’m really wanting to dig my own ponds and am currently researching that process and how many states will even provide hatchlings for free. I’m going to build a custom greenhouse so i can grow year around as well so that’s my next project is to design a custom greenhouse that attaches to the main house. I’m also looking for any helpful information from fellow veterans on their process through the VA of buying a farm, homestead, or building your own home via the construction loan. Any info, first hand advice, and knowledge is greatly appreciated. You can email me at benjaminangle@outlook.com. Thank you.
 
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Do lots of reading and note taking for a start.
Here is a sample of whats around in web sites to study;
food forest

Pick land that does not need heavy machinery.
Hire some if needed for a road etc.
 
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Ben wrote:  I’m going to build a custom greenhouse so i can grow year around as well so that’s my next project is to design a custom greenhouse that attaches to the main house.



As you are still in the design phase, may I sugget looking into some passive greenhouse designs. Maybe some of the concepts can be added to your design. I'm a bit north of you, and was disapointed in how much heating is needed to keep my detached greenhouse from freezing durring our winters. I decided to not coninue to do so.

Here are some details on the Passive Chinese Greenhouse.

The Chinese Greenhouse is a full-color comprehensive guide to these passive solar greenhouses for self-sufficiency and growing year-round in soil or aquaponic grow beds with no additional heat."



Here, Paul explains his wofati greenhouse experiment.


As an side, you should be able to grow kale and turnips outside over the winter, I do in my location. They do need a jump start in the fall, to get to a certain size, or they just "hibernate" at a seedling stage and bolt in the spring before reaching a usable size. Here, mid septenber is the latest time to put the seeds in the ground.
 
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Much depends up the property you select and the nature of your disability.  Your present savings also come into  play. Finally, what do you expect to accomplish .... as in, what rare your goals?

I would take a close look at raised beds for gardening.   I have found a small tractor with a front end loader to be helpful.  

The amount of money you identify makes the goal doable, but watch out for debt.

 
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Ben Angle wrote:I’m readying for retirement in the next 1-3 years and I’m looking to start a food forest/homestead. I’m a disabled veteran so i get an annual income of roughly $40k...

I’m also looking for any helpful information from fellow veterans on their process through the VA of buying a farm, homestead, or building your own home via the construction loan. Any info, first hand advice, and knowledge is greatly appreciated. You can email me at benjaminangle@outlook.com. Thank you.



My husband is also a retired Army guy, with a disability rating. We've bought 3 homes using his VA eligibility. We didn't buy a farm, per se, so I don't know if rules for land designated for farm use fall under a different category. However, here is my understanding of VA-backed home loans:

1. It is my understanding the VA doesn't back raw land. Perhaps that's changed in the last few years?

2. I do know for certain that USAA doesn't issue mortgages on manufactured homes/mobile homes. I don't know who your banker is, just FYI.

3. Have you looked into a USDA home loan? The USDA offers a guaranteed loan to low to moderate income families that are looking to buy homes in rural areas. I seem to remember they offer a 0% down payment option? Again, that was a few years ago we researched it. Here is a link for you to wade through: USDA Home Loans

4. I don't know if you're wanting to get a real estate agent involved, but I really felt like our real estate agent was well worth the price of his commission. He was super knowledgeable about the nuances of VA approval (they inspect the house with a fine tooth comb before they'll approve the loan), and he didn't even bother to show us "fixer uppers" he knew wouldn't meet the inspection process. The VA also will not let veterans go "upside down" on a loan--the appraisal must be equal or above the selling price of the house. I suppose if you had cash to make up the difference, it might be doable; I'm not sure. Again, this is where a real estate agent is worth his salt.

5. When you find a property you're interested in, my own opinion on prepping it for your elder years is that do what you can when you can now. Plan with a long-term thought to your mobility, strength, etc. Raised beds, level walkways, tree saws that don't require you to climb a tree to prune it, etc. Here is an excellent thread about homesteading in our old age: The Aging Homesteader

Please keep us posted on your land search. The VA is a red-tape nightmare, so brace yourself and understand it's a process. Best wishes!
 
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There are more plans that I’m working on as far as the business/non-profit side of the house. Once I’m complete researching that area then my goals will move depending on funding. But the overall objective is to create multiple different ecosystems/guilds around the property for year round harvest of meats, veggies, fruits and nuts. Obviously this is all wishful thinking as I’m in the planning stages but I want to make this happen on a large tract of land that will also house veterans, students, and volunteers. I’m starting my research as to what a single person can feasibly accomplish and adding to it from there. Since I’m planning early and am in no rush, I figured I’d give my dream a shot. I already have a friend that does grant writing so we are researching those possibilities now. So much to this dream project but I’m also being realistic in that I’ll only be able to work with what I have saved, my disability income, and expected revenue from farm.
 
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I'd be super careful saying anything "business" related with the VA. The VA loan is for veterans who are using the property as their main dwelling. I'd be inclined to think that if you say you intend it to be a business of any sort, even if it's your primary domain, things might get hairy. If I were in your situation, I'd not say the word "business."

The USDA loan might be more lenient with a "farm" designation. I'm not sure, but it might be worth researching it. We didn't qualify for the USDA loan because the property we bought was not rural enough. So my inclination is that the USDA deals more with farm-zoned types of property?

Keep dreaming and planning! It'll come together when the time is right.
 
John C Daley
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Is it possible to find other Vets that have gone down the same path?
They may be able to help.

Is there any Aossiation that may lead you to them?
 
John F Dean
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John C Daley has an excellent idea.  While some veterans groups are rather passive social clubs, others are quite powerful and dynamic.  Much depends upon which door you walk through. I would check out several ....as in many .... in neighboring communities.   As the retired CEO of a not for profit, I can tell you that you can get further and faster in an election year.  This is not a political party issue .... it is the more pragmatic issue of officials looking for any way they can to keep their jobs.

Going back a few years, a person I worked with had trouble with a similar public office that “couldn’t locate her papers”.   It took me one phone call.   The person running for political office showed up with TV cameras and announced he wasn’t leaving until the papers were located.  They were located, and the lady received her benefits.  Why yes, he did get elected.
 
John F Dean
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For funding issues, consider your states department of rehabilitation.  It goes by various names in different states.  Do your research before to talk to anyone.  Expect to get turned down the first time.  I have seen them do weird things.  In one case, a handicapped accessible bathroom was installed in an old rusted out mobile home at a cost of $35,000.00.  And this was in the early 90s.
 
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With an income of 40K you should qualify for a $200,000 loan (depending on your credit).
15acres for $120k https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/110-Rose-Ln-Laurel-MS-39443/78026708_zpid/
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I like the idea of buying machinery, then you can sell it back in 5yrs for the same price that you bought it for. And if you every need it again in the future you can just rent/hire.
 
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