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Old 19 acre Amish farm buy  RSS feed

 
Posts: 33
Location: Tokyo
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I have found a piece of property and my wife and I are really hurting our brains on whether or not to take the big plunge. There are a few aspects that I thought the wonderful folks here at permies may be able to offer some of their perspective. We do not live in the states right now, and wouldn't really make full use for another couple of years. Everything about this place feels right for us, it's 20 minutes away from a fairly wealthy, tourist laden town and a ski resort even closer. We hope to one day make a living off cultivating a very diverse crop with permaculture practices, or at least supplement our income with doing something we love.

This image shows a small shed and the back part of the land.

Here is an image that captures what the place is all about. 19 acres of rolling hills, mostly pasture with pines dotted along and gets sandy in a spot way in the back. Had an old apple tree and some rhubarb (was delicious) was still growing although it had been a few years since anyone did any farming or animal raising there. It was an amish farm, and has a couple barn buildings, workshop, horse barn, milking parlor. The horse barn still has tons of hay stocked up that has not been touched in a long time, and has started to rot out some of the planks in the loft, but doesn't look too serious. Also a small amish cabin sits that could be insulated and lived in and is pretty new.

What I am asking is this; when you bought land did it feel right as soon as you walked it? It has certainly felt that way for us, and we haven't been looking long. Feel free to share your experiences buying land and getting to that point where you felt settled in and producing. I could share our plan for this place and what we'll do until we get living there full time if anyone is curious, I have nothing better to do until we get living our dream!
 
steward
Posts: 4400
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Travis, if it is something you can afford to do and it feels right, then I would do it.
When I saw my land for the first time it was a no brainer. I went right back to the realtor and put in an offer.
Best thing I ever did!
 
Posts: 3366
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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The first time we looked, every property seemed right. We were running away from our situation instead of plotting a course TO SOMETHING. Luckily the banks added some sanity to our thinking.

For the property we are on now, we knew what we wanted and looked for months and months; nothing felt right--until this one. We knew within 5 minutes on the property.
 
Posts: 6546
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Yes, we knew! We had been to several places that day and this one was a listing in the paper, we got lost on the way and the price was exactly the amount we had, which turned out to be a mistake on the low side in the listing but they let us buy it for that anyway. It had everything on our list of 'needs' down to reception for our favorite community radio station, We have never regretted the decision...just often wish it could have happened when we were in our twenties or thirties. But by the time we bought this we had made so many false starts we knew exactly what we needed for the life we wanted.
 
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Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I would make a detailed listing of what you plan to do with your future farm, and then compare your aspirations to the natural assets of the farm you are looking at.
The place should definitely 'feel right'. Mine did when my wife and I first set foot on the land. But you want to set aside the emotional side of things to consider all the weakest points. Things like water, access, topography, that you will never be able to substantially change. I would say, make a 'heartless' assessment of the opportunity. If everything adds up, then make sure your feelings are in line as well. I have seen lots of friends fall in love with a piece of land, purchase it, and then realize the land cannot do something they really imagined it could. Take a cold hard look, like a businessman would. Then fall in love. Buying a farm is a lot like marriage, you will sure be glad you picked the right one!
 
Travis Toner
Posts: 33
Location: Tokyo
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I have been creating a thorough outline for what we want to do. We are pretty flexible people and are willing to work with what the land has to offer us. Yet, I can't think of anything we really feel compelled to do that isn't possible on this property. I would have to say the biggest drawback is water. There is no stream or creek like some of the other properties we have looked at. We would have to drill 300-350 feet which gets pretty expensive, but just uptown there is a protected watershed so I feel like water quality could be good. We are near the top of a hill, but I'd have to do a better assessment of the topography of the area to determine how much water rolls across the property. I feel I may not have the expertise to determine whether this is a deal breaker or not. There is about 32 inches annual precipitation in the area with lake-effect precipitation in the summer.

Its of course scary to put down your savings on something, so we are critical as we know how. My wife and I are still quite young, and we don't want any false starts! Thanks everyone, you've been very helpful thus far.
 
Adam Klaus
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Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Travis-
Water is one of the most critical features of any farm landscape. Granted, it is more precious out West for us, where we get about 20" annually on my farm. But still, I would seriously reconsider any farm that does not have flat-out EXCELLENT water. A well 300+ feet deep is a huge risk, and would be a large expense. At best, I would have the current owner drill and test the well to proove water availabilty. But even then, there are so many farms that DO have good water, that I would reccomend looking more. Well water and surface water both have their liabilities, but well water is often poor quality for growing plants. We have a 250' deep well that we do not even use, for that reason. The hardness and mineralization make the water taste okay at best, and the dissolved solids would have a negative effect on our soil chemistry. In our valley, there are large disparities in water between farms. On a wet year, everybody does great, no problems. But on a drought year, access to water means the difference between farms with dying fruit trees, and farms that carry on with no major inconvenience.

Water is maybe the most critical factor for farming. I would honestly reccomend finding a farm where you will have more water than you know what to do with. Droughts will happen. Water is life.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 6546
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Water was at the top of our list that I mentioned in my post above. We bought a few acres originally with no water...just a trickle of a spring and a seasonal creek that most often was dry. Our area has fifty inches of annual rainfall but it was difficult and we could not afford a well or much in the way of rainwater harvestig devices. BUT...if you know the folks in the area have good well water and you can afford to drill...then I wouldn't let that be the deal breaker....especially if it was a functioning farm. What did they do for water?
 
Travis Toner
Posts: 33
Location: Tokyo
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Judith Browning wrote:Our area has fifty inches of annual rainfall but it was difficult and we could not afford a well or much in the way of rainwater harvestig devices. BUT...if you know the folks in the area have good well water and you can afford to drill...then I wouldn't let that be the deal breaker....especially if it was a functioning farm. What did they do for water?



We can afford the expense of the well, but I think what we need to do is talk to the neighbors about their wells, next door is a pretty new house that I'm sure drilled recently. I considered re-roofing some of the larger roof surfaces of the barns for catchment, as the metal roofing is pretty rusty, yet pristine underneath. I may be able to dam up the lake-effect snow when it melts in the spring, about 74 inches annually.


Judith Browning wrote:What did they do for water?




This illustration shows the opposite angle of the next photo

I don't know what they call this type of well set up but both concrete resivior type blocks have been filled in with dirt.

The property in recent years has been used for hunting, no farming has been done in a number of years. Last deed activity was done in 1994, then in 2007 passed on to the son.
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Water certainly is a necessity of growing, and I am curious as to why those water structures were filled with dirt.
Leads me to believe that they had become dysfunctional. Why else would they be taken 'off-line'?

I would not be too concerned with the rust on the roof if that water was to be used for irrigation.
Rust is iron oxide. Could actually help the soils.

My biggest question would be "Why did the Amish sell it?"
The Amish purchase a lot of land every year. As their families/community grow, they need more.
They very seldom sell.
I would be very reluctant to buy ex-Amish land without knowing why they sold it.



 
Travis Toner
Posts: 33
Location: Tokyo
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John Polk wrote:
I would not be too concerned with the rust on the roof if that water was to be used for irrigation.
Rust is iron oxide. Could actually help the soils.


Thank you for that, certainly would save a lot of money, there's so much square footage on the roofs of all the outbuildings, how could I resist harvesting all that rain? I could have the water tested if I was too concerned.

I would hope that between this and directing seasonal snowmelt and other moving waters into ponds I may have enough to irrigate with. Then again, I worry my emotions are getting in the way. I'm trying to let go and really assess this, and not think of how I could make it all work just because I love the place. For the area though, and it's the area I want to live, there is not much competition.

John Polk wrote:
My biggest question would be "Why did the Amish sell it?"
The Amish purchase a lot of land every year. As their families/community grow, they need more.
They very seldom sell.
I would be very reluctant to buy ex-Amish land without knowing why they sold it.


That is a question I asked myself as well, but perhaps I dismissed it too quickly. It seems to me that there is no longer an Amish presence in the area, I assume this once was and this happened to be one small farm that wasn't bought up. Maybe the guy left the community, kept his land and the rest of them moved to another part of the state where there's a good sized community. I do need to contact the owner and ask him the question, I think.
 
Posts: 644
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John Polk wrote:
My biggest question would be "Why did the Amish sell it?"
The Amish purchase a lot of land every year. As their families/community grow, they need more.
They very seldom sell.
I would be very reluctant to buy ex-Amish land without knowing why they sold it.


So true. If it is as close as you say it is to development and a ski resort, then they tend to want to push out farmers. Check the zoning and regulations for the property, including sewer. I know this state is really coming down on the Amish and those in rural areas. I have heard and read it costing $15k+ to update sewage and water systems. A true Amish farm won't have any electricity so you will need to check in to that. There won't be enough sunlight for solar power in the snowbelt. Plan on about 3 months or less of weather good enough to grow warm weather crops. I would also check out the property taxes. They can be a killer up here. Once you have done all of your research and are happy with the place, then go for it.
 
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