I'm turning 21 in two months and I had dropped out of school and have been jobless for quite some time.
I've always been interested in this type of lifestyle but I guess I've always been afraid to take the leap. I have about $15,000 saved up and I just don't want to see it disappear for getting world wide experience if I'm never going to be able to own my own plot of land one day. My ultimate fear would be having to come back home and having all of this great life experience only to find out that I'm broke, and only eligible for minimum wage fast food or retail job. I would one day like to own land where I could do things exactly as I want. I don't understand how you get the money to do it though.
15000 dollars is quite a bit of money! Don't go flashing that sort of cash around! So personal experience and opinions as someone who was in your position a half decade back or so (minus the saved money).
The way I see it there are three ways you could pursue a back to the land dream.
1) SAVE EVERY LAST CENT. Go get a farm internship job where they will likely work you like a dog, pay you scrapes, and provide a possibly livable space.
Do this for several years, at several places, at different scales. This will provide you with a ton of experience. Both good and bad. Sometimes learning what NOT to do is as important as learning what is worth doing. I would not expect to be able to save more than 2-3 grand a year doing this though.
2) Save 2/3 and spend 1/3. I spent many years of my life, from about 14 on working working working until I have saved up 4-6 thousand dollars and then hopping on a plane a disappearing into the world for months at a time. One can travel VERY cheap. Especially if one is young and has a sense of adventure (common since is advisable but not strictly speaking necessary).
Check out someplace where they're doing things pro. Find a place you want to spend 3 months (or more w/ the proper visa or a willingness to be arrested/deported) and where they're doing thing similarly to what you envision - preferably under similar conditions. In my experience language skills build pretty quickly when you need them. Many people around the world speak English as well and are generally kind enough to act as ready made tutors.
3) Find 3 more people with the same amount of money and passion.
Then you have 60,000
I had friends not far from me (as the crow flys - much farther as the car drives) buy 5 acres with a cabin, rainwater catchment, and modest solar set up for 50,000
That would be my read on the situation. Of course only you can answer the question (what is) 'right for me'
Number 2 is definitely how I would like to do it. I really want to travel the world. I have never left the US or my timezone for that matter. I want to see more of the world. I think it would be good for me. I have a very frugal personality with a strong desire for adventure. I believe I could go way under the standard of low-budget travel and still be happy.
It's right for me and it's something I would want to do. Only there is no real security in doing so. I'm afraid of this. Are there really enough people doing this were over my time of traveling I will make friends that are like-minded?
If you join WWOOF, you will have some great experiences. We are WWOOF hosts and host folks from all over the world, most everyone we get along well with and consider friends. There are farms out there that are not in the true spirit of the program, ask LOTS of questions. What you need to do is to sit down and write it all out, what you want to learn from your travels and what you expect from your hosts. Read it over, re-write it, sleep on it and redo the list as many times as necessary. This will give you a good idea of what to ask your hosts.
advice for your money... 15 grand won't go very far in starting a real farm, however depending on where you're at, 15 grand will buy you a decent little plot of land in this economy. If the real estate market recovers, 15 grand might not do so much... Once you start spending it, it will blow your mind and how quickly it's gone, so be careful and be a real penny pincher. What if the 5 grand you spent would have ended up buying you 2 more acres? I would worry about the land first, the rest can be gotten in smaller increments of money. I would really watch out about investing together with other people in a farm, that can get ugly very very fast. If you do, make sure the land is yours, and have others purchase the equipment, etc... that way, you're covered when/if things go bad and at least you won't be broke with no where to go. With that type of thing, "Friend A" buys a tractor or whatever power equipment needed, those are his (or hers) and if things go bad, they have a real thing they take with them. "Friend B" buys a greenhouse or two, if things go bad, they can take them with them... etc... Money changes relationships and I have seen LOTS of communal type arrangements fail due to arguments over VERY silly things.
For land, I can give you advice, but whether or not it is able to be followed depends on where you're at and a little luck... You need water, a constant source of water. A VERY good well would do, but a decent little spring that can feed an irrigation pond is far better. Make sure the spring or creek flows year round and isn't just a seasonal one, ask locals not the realtor if the little springs dry up, if it dries up during a drought then that's when you would need it the most. The other biggie and just as crucial, is proximity to your market. Spend some serious time figuring out what you want to grow and who will buy it, make sure they'll buy it, have a backup plan in case that group doesn't buy it, then have a backup plan in case no one buys your "cabbage" or whatever it is you're growing. Market research is the most important thing you can do, don't expect that since you grew a bunch of tomatoes that they'll sell. What if everyone else at the farmers market is selling tomatoes?
I hope this didn't sound condescending, I'm just trying to offer a little advice since it seems like you are seriously considering starting a farm You will enjoy WWOOF though, I wish I had known about WWOOF before I started my farm, I could have saved myself LOTS of mistakes.
Ajila Ama Farm Western North Carolina
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