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Why is this so hard?  RSS feed

 
Ellen Schwab
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I keep hearing there are young people who long to live on the land and farm for a living. But, I can't find them.

Yes, I can find several who want to walk in the meadow and pick wild flowers in the sunshine, but I have not found any with a reasonable plan or a reasonable committment.

I am offering a chance to farm on my land with my equipment with no lease, no rent, no mortgage.

In return, I expect a plan. What will you produce ~ how much will it cost to produce ~ where will you sell it and for how much. How much of your time will it take and how much profit do you expect to make.

Working 'hard' is not explicit enough. I want hours per week. So far, I have a heard from many willing to work less than 40. Really? A real job takes 40 plus commute time, plus lunch hour in the middle. Why should farming require less? And, you get to eat lunch at home with your children.

I also want a goal income level. Because owning property has costs. If you can not afford to pay the taxes and insurance, after I die, how will you keep the land? Let alone buy your own and pay a mortgage.

I would sincerely like to see some young couple take advantage of the holes in my use of my land and equipment. But, I am offering a boost, not a hand out. Maybe I am looking in the wrong place?

Organic, sustainable people, got any suggestions?

 
Dale Hodgins
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I would do a good job of advertising the merits of what you've already done, and then put it on the open market. Include covenants if that makes you more comfortable. You could include a lifetime lease for yourself, so that you can continue to live on some portion of the land. And, here's the biggie --- Offer to hold the mortgage. The prospective buyers coming up with a plan that meets your requirements, can be your chief criteria in choosing who to sell to. This should weed out those who aren't serious. Ask for a reasonable down payment.
 
Jessica Gorton
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Where are you located? Here in Maine there are a few organizations that help connect new farmers with farms - MOFGA and Maine Farmlink (http://www.mainefarmlink.org) through Maine Farmland Trust are the two most obvious examples. Perhaps checking out local organizations would help - Cooperative Extension might be a place to start.

Our education system doesn't do a good job of preparing young people to become entrepeneurs, in my opinion. How many kids graduate from high school ever having seen a business plan? I know that when I started a business, there was a huge learning curve in that department. I also don't think that most folks understand how hard farming is, and how many hours a day you need to work to make a living. During the busy season here, I haven't met a farmer who works less than 10-14 hours per day, if they are making a living at it. If I was in your position, I wouldn't consider anyone who hasn't worked several seasons on a working farm, whether as wwoofers, interns, or paid workers. Until you actually do it, it's very easy to romanticize the life of a farmer.

So if you are serious about it, it might take some work on your end to shepherd your property into the right hands. I agree with Dale on putting down certain things in writing - are you wanting to continue to live on the land for the rest of your life? What protections do you want as to the kind of stewardship that happens on the property; what kinds of easements should you put in place, etc?

Talk to local farmers - often the next generation is working the fields of someone else's place, learning the trade, wanting to put their own roots down somewhere.
 
Matu Collins
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Ellen, have you become a WWOOF host farm? That has been a great place for me to meet good helpers. I've been contacted by a lot of potential wwoofers who may prefer lounging around and picking wildflowers but a good application has helped me. I am very choosy and have had great success. I am happy to send a link to my application to anyone who is interested in making their own application.
 
R Scott
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Joel Salatin said he gets TONS of people like you begging for one of his interns. More than he has interns. And he is practically a full-time intern machine.

You are not going to find someone from a public school education that could do that, probably not after a 4 year degree--NONE of those small business skills are taught these days. You would be looking at 30 before most could get to that point.

WWOOFing is the new peace corps--a way to see the world on someone else'd dime. Maybe learn a little something, but not a real commitment.

Advertise in a local homeschool newsletter. Go to the farmer's market and look for the families there with their kids INVOLVED.

I know a few that could do it, but only if your location and desires fit their plans.
 
Ellen Schwab
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Matu Collins wrote:Ellen, have you become a WWOOF host farm? That has been a great place for me to meet good helpers. I've been contacted by a lot of potential wwoofers who may prefer lounging around and picking wildflowers but a good application has helped me. I am very choosy and have had great success. I am happy to send a link to my application to anyone who is interested in making their own application.




Thanks, Matu, I would appreciate seeing your app. I have been reluctant to sign up for WOOFers because any system the relies on 'free' labor is not sustainable . . .

I am NOT planning to sell my land. I am still using it. I plan to continue to use it. But, I do have more than I can comfortably maximize. I hate to see the waste of good land when I know there must be young people looking.

Thanks for the tips, Everyone.

Ellen
 
Ellen Schwab
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Jessica Gorton wrote:Where are you located?


Jessica,

I am in SE Ohio. I am not at all oppossed to many things in writting. Many things are negotiable! My area is agricultural, and I have a ton of kids wanting to farm checmically. Organic and sustainable is 'weird' for this area. I have contacted all the local schools and thier ag programs, the 4H advisors in a tricountry area, and have advertised on Craig's List for locals. I am not asking for experience or expertise, but someone who is willing to put together a plan. I will even assist with the plan. Chemicals, no. And, I won't do it the way "grandpa" did, unless grandpa still has his farm, which is not often the case. If grandpa's chemical laddened way worked, those kids would be working w grandpa, not looking at me.

I have many interests and the land can support much more than I am doing or ever will do.

I seem to be stuck in no man's land between the Round Up Ready farmers and the pot smoking ain't life a blast subsistence farmers. I want to find people who see farming as a sustainable BUSINESS. Not just fun place to hang out.

I am offering an opportunity to get started with no money down, no financial risk, but if I am going to take some risk, I want some assurances that the couple know how to work and be productive.

I get several calls a week from people who are going to 'work hard' and sell eggs, but when I send them offf to read Joel Salatin's book ~ 2 books ~ thier choice of which ones, I never hear from them again. And most will not define a schedule of 'work hard'. Is that 8-5 or 12-2? They don't know. Well, I know what it took to get here and I know what it would take to make money here.

I am willing to boost, I am not willing to carry. <G>

 
Burra Maluca
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Ellen - is it absolutely essential that you have a couple? I do know of one hard working young man who might be interested, but he works so hard I don't think he's had chance to find a partner yet. Should I put him in touch with you?
 
Ellen Schwab
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Burra,

I would be very willing to talk to a single young man, but you have hit a very important snag. It is unlikely a suitable partner would fall from the sky and land on the farm . . . so he would have to be willing to make efforts to go out and socialize. I know I often get caught up in the day to day projects and it is an effort to leave the farm.

Another issue is ~ in 'grow mode' ~ in the intial starting of a business there is often a need for more hours. It is one thing to work 10 hours outside and then come in and have some one had you a cup of coffee or put dinner on the table. It is another to look a empty pots and a sink full of dishes and have to then do inside work. At least with a couple they can take turns 'stopping to make dinner now'.

I also find some jobs are 3 hand jobs. <G> It can be done with 2 hands and determination, but someone to hold this a second or hand me that makes the job go quicker and easier.

I would be very interested in talking to a strong capable young man, but IMO, the farm is more a job and a half. Two people could split it and still have energy for food prep, a night at the movies and some child rearing. One person would ~ IMO ~ be taxed hard. It is doable. But, it is harder.

Thanks! Please so pass my name along.

I am open on someone coming to get a good start and then buying thier own land or staying and inheriting the place. Everything is negotiable.



 
Kelly Smith
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Ellen Schwab wrote: I am not asking for experience or expertise, but someone who is willing to put together a plan. I will even assist with the plan.


this may be the snag you are running into. most people under 30 dont have a clue what a business plan is. (some over 30, such as myself dont know it either!)
are you offering to help with the business plan in your advertisement, or are you reserving that for the right person? as someone that can farm, but cant write business plan, i would be a lot more interested in the situation you describe if i knew i could get help with the business plan side of things.


i would 2nd the advice of looking at farmers markets for people farming with kids. at a minimum you know they are committed to it [for now]

good luck

 
Ellen Schwab
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Didn't mean to sound quite so matter fact 'everyone needs a partner' to have a good life . . . if he is happy being single, there are ways to make the farm work as a single person.

But, the chances of finding one once he is ensconsed in the day to day are decreased. Farmers notoriously have a hard time meeting partners because of the long hours and the isolated, self sufficient living.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Ellen:

I grew up with Peace Corps volunteers overseas as they were often called in to work on USAID projects my father was involved in. I'm thinking that returned Peace Corps volunteers may have just the motivation, real world experience and leadership qualities you are looking for. They also have a very high level of adaptability and resourcefulness.

I know several returned Peace Corps volunteers - they take on leadership roles, or have jobs demanding a high amount of responsibility - one's a Dr., several head up non-profits, one is a VP of software development, one helped develop a permaculture subdivision in Tucson, etc. There is usually a returned peace corps organization in larger towns and they have websites where you can post announcements. Most returned volunteers are partnered so no worries there.
 
Brandon Halsey
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I know people who have advertised for similar at 2 places and have had success.
1. your state ag school, or school with an ag department. Post some fliers on post there. There is usually the young married or engaged couple looking to break into the farming world, but unsure how to get started.
2. the second way was already mentioned, homeschooling. There are many home schooling groups, especially in rural areas, that meet as groups. There is always young bobby who just finished up and got engaged to little Peggy and are wanting to do just that.
 
Ellen Schwab
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Kelly,

I am not looking for a 5 year, precise business plan.

All I want is a 'projected' list of expenses and time spent and a projected list of potential profit.

So, before you tell me you want to sell chicken breats, I want you to get the costs of chicks ~ including shipping, the average amount of grain to grow that chick to slaughter weight and the cost of said grain, and the cost of slaughter.

I would like you to have some idea how much you can sell them for and where.

I would like you to guesstimate how many minutes per day to care for them.

AND ~ I would like a guesstimate of housing/coop/tractor cost and feeder and waterer costs.

This is not really for me . . . this is so you can make a good stab at "I will be working for X $ per hour if all goes perfectly and there are no problems."

THEN, if you are willing to work at that and deal with problems, we can move forward.

I do not want to be the traffic cop and cheerleader. I want people who can come to me a 'gold mine' idea, let me shoot holes in it with my experience, and then have them and me still excited and willing.

I want people who speak in defined, measurable language. If you guess 10 minutes per day and it takes 8, yehaw. If you guess 10 and it takes 12, you are working for less money per hour, we need to adjust the model. If your project feed costs and are under, yeah. If your feed costs are over, we need to look for the waste and adjust the model, or shop for a better deal or measure the benefits of growing our own.

I am willing to pay the taxes and not charge land rent or tractor maintainence for several years, but eventually, you need to account for and contribute to those expenses.

Certainly there are some intangibles to working outside in the sunshine and taking your children with you, but a when running a business one has to make money and has to watch costs and make educated decisions along the way. If we are going to lose money and play at it, let's just call it a hobby.

So when someone tells me they will 'work hard', I want a number of hours per week ~ seasonal, it changes. But, working hard ~ to me ~ is not less than 40. I, personally, do not want to work for subsistance wages. If someone aspires to make 12K a year, with 2 adults working . . . that couple will not be able to pay the taxes and insurance to keep the farm, let alone buy tractor fuel. JMO, but they would be better off working part time a Burger King than working full time to make taxes and insurance I want people who look at those things and make informed decisions. I am willing to add to that discussion, I am not willing to push it, control it, or start it.
 
Ellen Schwab
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Thank you, Everyone, I will be following up on the suggestions!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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I hope you'll post back here if/when you find a suitable candidate. It would be educational for the rest of us to know what leads panned out with qualified individuals.

Best of luck on your search!
 
George Meljon
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Ellen, did you try Hocking College in SE Ohio? That's where I learned about permaculture at first. There are a few established 'first wave' permaculturalists that I could give you names of. A lot of young people coming through there are probably not ready for your idea, but from time to time I bet there are.
 
George Meljon
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To answer the thread title, I think it's hard because of the uncertainty of the result and the pressure to earn income right away. Starting farming, like many cornerstone professions, is like looking at a map around the world and realizing you have to take a step at a time....and right now. You've mitigated the cost substantially, but there is still risk and years of experience needed. You can't really ask in all honesty why it's hard to find someone young AND wise beyond their experiences AND ready to move forward on a business plan if they just had free land. Today's broader society implores people NOT to farm, so there just isn't a plethora of people that fit your standard. Take Paul's 200 acres for example, he found some people to come out and dig in, but he expected a lot more considering his reach and influence. Can your land be rented? Sometimes setting a price for something gives it more value and marketability. For instance, an artist needs to decide, is this a 50 dollar painting, or is this a 500 dollar painting? The buyer may be out there who decides 500 dollars complements their taste. The profit motive on your part, to make money on this land, may take you to where you need to go. You could even try both angles at the same time as long as you don't cross market your plan. There are a lot of people out there and most won't read both ads, and it's likely no loss if they did. Anyway, you are in a strange spot, can't give land away? Wow! Good luck.
 
M Foti
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Ellen, you're looking at WWOOFing the wrong way, that's ok because we did as well. IF you're going into WWOOF for free labor, you're going to be disappointed. It only costs 5 bucks to become a host farm, and will give you a VERY wide advertising venue of people who are interested in farming...

One thing I would like to point out, in this post anyhow, I don't see any assurance that their investment is going to be worthwhile... It's one thing to have a clear arrangement of "this is what you get to spend some time here" another entirely to ask someone to invest their all in a business on your land... The land may be a large expense, but there are tons of hidden costs... Someone like me would wonder, what if I come, invest everything I have here and then get thrown off the land? Obviously, I don't know what you're offering here, but it seems like you're offering use of your land, a place to stay and some equipment. I'm not being brash here, just asking these questions since they weren't addressed.

If I put myself in the shoes of someone coming to do this deal, my biggest concern would be, ok, I do all this work build a farm from nothing but bare land, but it isn't mine... I can get a tractor pretty cheap, lease some land, and not even be a drop in the bucket to what it would take to earn a living farming... I think if you address those concerns for folks pre-emptively then you'll have some real interest.
 
Ellen Schwab
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M Foti,

Very valid questions, and I would expect those from any potential partners.

EVERYTHING is negotiable. The only model I am aware of is grandmother/mother leaving land to child. So son works under dad ~ bascially all his life ~ and when dad kicks off son/daughter takes over and whem mom dies, he finally has control. This only works when all members are fair to each other ~ because son or daughter can leave and go work in town at any time and mom can sell the farm at any time. Typically, son recognizes the value of the inheritance and works for lower income because he is sacrificing for the future ownership.

Since no one is related to me ~ nor has the 20-40 years of experience knowing if I keep my word ~ and I don't know them and don't know for sure if they are hard working and honest . . . we need time. How do we get time to get to know each other?

And the thing is, if you CAN rent land, buy groceries, buy a tractor, buy seeds, buy cattle . . . pay the electric bill ~ then you do not need me at all, go do it. Unfortunately, farming does not typically pay 'right away' ~ we can talk cattle economics, or sheep or even vegetables. There is upfront investment in labor and money before any income is expected.

I have talked to some kids . . . how much land do they need to live thier dream? Where can they rent or borrow or lease . . . and it comes down to even if they could afford the 'rent', they then have to buy a tractor, buy cattle, buy seeds, buy a drill . . . pay the electric bill, buy groceries, buy fuel . . . so they are stuck in the can't farm full time because they need a city job, can't move out to the cheap land because there are no jobs close . . .

But, back to your question, what assurances do they have? I will turn that one back to you ~ what assurances do I have?

IMO, it is a two way street and both of us will have some risks.

How can I promise to give land on a promise that they will work hard and try?

My plan is to give it 5 years, and at the end of 5 years, we decide to commit or move on. From my side commit would mean 'we' consult with transition attorneys and come up with a plan and contract. BUT ~ like most farm grandmas I am not willing to give up my land until I am dead.

5 years is a long time to labor . . . but my offer ~ which I did not go into details here because I tend to try to cram too many details in and people can ask ~ is

During that 5 years, either one of us can end the relationship, hopefully with some notice to the other, and hopefully it will be mutual and friendly. But, if they start a bunch of projects, that I can not keep up with and leave . . I will lose not only money, but clean up time.

If we make it 5 years, it is decision time, see the transition attorney or you leave with 1/2 the cows ~ which are very liquid ~ and 1/2 the customers. This would allow you to go back to step one, rent, lease, loan options with a bit more collateral and a bit more 'proof' that you are a good risk of a loan or not. You could walk in, try farming and walk out. And I would be left with the mess. What assurances do I have you will at least clean up before you go? What assurances do I have that you won't break my equipment and leave?

So you risk 5 years to prove you are a good grandchild and I risk you breaking my stuff and harming my cattle.

At the 5 year mark you do not get the land, but we have a commitment covering our general expectations and we have built up some trust or . . walked.

On that note, what assurances do any of us have that the world will be fair and that things will work out? I have made significant improvesments to the land every year. There is more than just raw land and some cattle. But, even so, raw land and cattle is a bigger boost than most have . . .

E

 
Manfred Eidelloth
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@Ellen:
A bit off topic, but may I ask what kind of taxes and how much a farmer has to pay in Ohio for a property like yours?
I guess there is some kind of land tax and an income tax?
 
M Foti
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all of that is quite reasonable I should have mentioned, I own a fairly large farm and host wwoofers here, that was where I was coming from in those questions.

I'm glad you didn't see it as an attack or anything negative, I was genuinely interested to know the answers. When I open my home up to wwoofers I am always a little hesitant as to who they are and what they do, but eventually I just have to trust that I have asked the right questions and leave it at that.

your arrangement sounds quite decent, with all those things, I too am a little amazed. I was unaware that you were offering to "pay the bills" as well, I assumed (we all know where that gets ya) that you were just offering up your land, possibly an empty home on it, and a tractor etc... You obviously know what you are talking about, the working the farm and balancing having the money to pay the bills as well does seem to be a bit of a trick!

I don't know how long you've been looking, but I would suggest to keep doing what you are doing and trust that God (or whatever you wish to call "it") will put the right people in your path... Things rarely work out in our time frame, but seem to work out for the best even if we can't see it at the time.

I think your offer is spectacular and the reason you haven't gotten more response is in my opinion divine intervention holding the spot for the person who really and truly deserves it!
 
Ellen Schwab
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Manfred,

Taxes in my county were recently raised. I used to pay 1200 per year. My land is in CAUV, County Ag Use Valuation, so as long as it is farmed, my taxes will be lower than housing or recreation land. My taxes are now 2k a year. Ohio does have income tax, as well as federal income taxes.

 
Ellen Schwab
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M Foti,

I am open to someone who wants to live off site, but I think farming is a lot easier when you are 'there' and can check on things without a drive. There is very little 'for rent' near me, so a 15-30 minute drive would be a minimum, and even then housing is not great and is expensive.

There is a story and a half house, so dormers on the second floor, but I would be willing to share the house. HOWEVER, if they want to live here, my expectation for cooking and cleaning go up.

I am offering a partnership ~ an opportunity to start farming with no upfront capital. But, at some point, I do expect a split of profits, or a 'land payment'. Eventually, they can inherit the place. I am not turning over the land and I am not giving up control until I am dead. I do follow principles of management by exception, so if things are going well, I can let go easily. If things are going wrong, I will need a lot more answers and will use my veto more. Nothing a kid born into farming wouldn;t have to deal with. Earning the freedom and responsibilty is just part of the transition.

There are a million right and fair ways to go about this . . . but I am not giving it to someone who wants to work 20 hours a week.
 
Ellen Schwab
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I am NOT offering a salary. I am offering some minor opportunities to earn boot and deodorant money. In my vision, it will take 5 years to realize a decent income. I am looking for someone who will make efforts to market as well as grow. I am one hour from several major markets, but the local community is poor and will not be buying much organic.
 
Matu Collins
Posts: 1976
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It sounds to me like there is something in your offer that is holding people back.

For me, there are three things- one, I and my husband like privacy. It would be hard to move into the same house as a relative that we know, moving in with someone who we don't know would be even more daunting. Another thing is the distance from markets that are friendly to organic food. I would not want to farm any other way. Food prices are low enough as it is. The other thing is the idea that you could send us away at any time. I would not be at all comfortable jumping into such a situation.



 
M Foti
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I think you'll find that right person, just be thankful that you haven't wasted time on the wrong one yet... Sounds alot like our situation, locally we don't have much of a market, but we have several within a hundred miles in any direction, we have a few farmers markets, but you can't earn enough from them to have any sort of a 'living' just enough to get a little pocket money from... Our market focus right now is wholesale with plans to expand into value added products.

anyhow, I think you'll do fine and that your "grandchildren" will show up just when they need to. That's an awesome thing you're offering and my guess is, quite a few people (due to the nature of society now) will be very skeptical at first.
 
Ellen Schwab
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Noted, Matu.

The second floor has 2 bedrooms and a central sitting area. I would have no reason to ever go up there. So, minimal privacy, but some. There is only one kitchen and one bathroom. So, yes, an issue. But, many in thier 20s are living in dorms, or sharing housing anyway.

I am adamant about organic and sustainable. Yes, the drive to market is a deterent, but I don't think there are many farms inside large cities with good organic markets. So, I am seeing that as a normal commute to market. My area is largely agricultural.

I think we would find out fairly quickly if we were going to get along or not . . . months rather than years . . . but I don't see a way around an 'engagement' period. A period where we work toward a commitment, but don't actually have one. A trial period . . . a test time . . . unless they are willing to move near me and try out a few projects at a time, so there is an end date and renewal. So, we are back to risk on both sides.
 
wren haffner
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Ellen,

This is Wren who previously emailed you about the opportunity. From my end, one thing that may help you narrow down on people is to explicitly state your vision and what you would like to see happen on the farm. For us (but perhaps not for the Right Person/People), the land seemed isolated. We are looking for community. Not to say community couldn't eventually gather in the area, but it's a lot to dive into as entrepreneurial young people. We appreciated your openminded and open hearted/handed offer, but it also seemed to us that you already had a vision you wanted implemented on the land (raising, grazing and selling cattle, etc) and also a vision for your neighbors as well. That isn't our trajectory and we didn't want to fit into your system until the land was turned over to us and then do what we wanted. To me, by stating what you specifically want (as you did to us in later emails, very clearly), you'll be able to better attract specific someone/s who are attracted to this vision. In fact, I have a hard time believing there isn't someone out there! I hope this helps.

Also, as a young person (27 yo) I really appreciate the dialogue you've opened up here. I've also witnessed one other older person with land on here (permies forum) who lives in NC offering a similar thing to young folks. The difficulties you articulate are real and I appreciate the conversation you've opened. And again, good luck finding the right person. Be specific! You'll have better luck weeding-out and attracting.

<3 Wren
 
Paul Ewing
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In my view, being isolated and in an ag area is a very good thing. An hour from major markets is a very reasonable distance and you might even be able to attract some people to come out to buy if you can make it a destination trip with lots to see and buy. Maybe a joint store with some other neighbors. Being too close to "civilization" can be a very big disadvantage. There was a very successful 7 acre organic vegetable farm in Arlington that basically had the cities grow up around them. They had hundreds of thousands of potential customers within 15 minutes of them and did a very successful pick your own and farm stand business. Last year they moved the farm to a place two hours away. The city had made it too difficult to continue farming even being grandfathered on many of the worst rules and ordinances.
 
Lynn Jacobs
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Matu Collins wrote:It sounds to me like there is something in your offer that is holding people back.

For me, there are three things- one, I and my husband like privacy. It would be hard to move into the same house as a relative that we know, moving in with someone who we don't know would be even more daunting. Another thing is the distance from markets that are friendly to organic food. I would not want to farm any other way. Food prices are low enough as it is. The other thing is the idea that you could send us away at any time. I would not be at all comfortable jumping into such a situation.


Absolutely agree with that. We have been volunteering/interning at various farms and ranches over the past 3 years. Having our "own space" is a HUGE deal for a couple, and especially for a family (we have a child). We have had to stay in homes with other people at times, and it's just not comfortable for anyone after a few days. Our current location we are in a small motor home. Small, but it's private and we aren't in anyone else's space. Motor homes, travel trailers, and mobile homes can be found everywhere, and putting one in for "the help" (if they are expected to stay longer than a week) is a MUST in my opinion. Set it up w/ water, electricity, and internet hook-ups, and sewer set up as well (so it doesn't need to be driven away to be emptied, or hook a hose up to it every few days.)

The best farm we worked for grew/raised over 90% of what they ate, and the rest was mostly mail-ordered (bulk oils, spices, etc.) and the occasional citrus or other odd item purchased when they made their weekly trip to town. That to me is ideal, but not always manageable, at least at first.

Most places we've gone have been fine, with an understanding of how long we would stay and how much work was expected, but there have been a couple places that didn't turn out too well. We had agreements in advance about certain conditions and length of stay, but we never got it in writing, and so the terms changed at the whim of the property owner.

Another point is that if you want someone to come in and manage your farm business and/or run their own business on your land, then you need to be pretty much hands-off and let them make the decisions. Too many people try to micromanage the workers. You can tell me I need to feed the animals, plant the garden, etc. but don't tell me where to stand and which hand to toss the food with.

You never will know for sure about anyone ahead of time, it does take time to get to know someone. Perhaps you need to simply find short term help for now, and worry about long term later
 
Ellen Schwab
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WEll, it seems my choices are to go ahead and retire and pay someone to cut the grass and let the fields be fallow ~ or continue farming on my own.

By allowing someone to use my upstairs, I would be giving up privacy, also. Isolation is a common thing with farming. I do not intend to build someone else a house. If they make it 5 years and want to the build thier own, I am open to that. But, I would not be comfortable allowing someone else to build ~ and risk the money ~ before we were sure we could coexist. Even in separate housing, a farm is an intimate place to share. Yes, lots of space, but everything is interconnected. If someone wants to come with thier own RV, I am open to that. Just a note ~ I moved and emptied my own RV for several years. I never want to be the old woman who whines about the younger generation, but if 2 hours a week of septic duty is too inconvenient . . . then maybe the dream of living on a farm should remain just a dream. Or at least, it won't be this farm. There is sacrifce in all accomplishment. I'm willing to make it better for the next generation, I am not able to make it perfect. I would like to see this farm turned over to a strong and competent next generation. But, I am only willing to go so far.

Along those lines, it is an age old struggle between the generations ~ the line between micromanaging and giving enough rope to hang is a fine balance that must be respected by ~ both ~ sides. From my side I am going to need a lot of reassurances that you do know which hand to use <G> and 'how' to plant the garden. It takes time for you to prove yourself. Some respect for my experience ~ and the fact I have already seen some of the mistakes you are about to make ~ is just as neccessary as your freedom to make some mistakes on your own. Certainly there are many ways to do things right, and as long as the outcome is good, your way is just as good as mine. However, the struggle is not all about the olders letting go ~ there has to be some youngers offering proof of competence and sometimes it DOES matter which hand you use and it does affect the profitablity.

Community is a lovely thing. But, the more people involved the more the farm has to support. It would be lovely if the whole world was organic and sustainable. I'm working to be a positive influence in my little nieghborhood. Until then, I have to deal with the reality. Prices are higher for organics in NYC, but there is a transportation cost . . . so an hour in many directions to good markets is not to bad in my view.

I have interviewed a lot of young people . . . the kid who wanted me to buy a bigger tractor and a bigger stock trailer before he starts . . . not gonna happen. The kid who insists I need to have 3 cuttings of hay a year ~ and can not see that one cutting and grazing 2-4 times is the same or better . . . not gonna work out. The kid who wants to round up along the fences, because it's only a little chemical . . . no thanks.

When 1% of the population farms and the vast majority of those are not organic, I get it that I am lIf I donooking for a needle in a haystack. The farm is not perfect. The situation is not ideal. But, IMO, there is a lot of opportunity. If I don't find the right people to take advantage, I will be fine. I can walk the farm and play with my dogs and let the fields be fallow for awhile.








 
gary calery
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Ellen,

I sure appreciate your search and outlook. I have been looking for a young family to trade labor for rent and the pickings are slim. I'm 62 and have been living on my farm for 33 years. Being raised in a city in northern Michigan never prepared me for the work and dedication of farm life. The need for independence and a self-reliant attitude is what made me a "success" in this lifestyle. I was a dreamy 20 year old when I travelled to 44 states looking for the right place to raise a family.

It took a while to find the right place to plant and grow. I tried the community thing but was too independent. Forging my own way was what I needed. If I would have found a situation like what you are offering, that would have been a my dream. All the direction and opportunity that I could have gotten from you would have sure saved me a lot of misapplied energy.

It seems a lot of young people are seeking communities that will give them the self-assurance that they don't have. They need other people to tell them they are independent. How can you be independent when everything revolves around a group? As far as real experience, most of their experience is theoretical. I call them google gardeners. They just know that if they get to the right place they will be able to grow anything and survive. They are too busy clicking instead of being out in their yard or patio, planting and nourishing anything they can in whatever space is available. Watching the power of photosynthesis at work on plants and admiring the cycle of energy. Oh, and no sense getting up too early. What's the rush? What you don't get done today will still be there tomorrow.

Sorry for venting, Ellen, but the sun is coming up and I have chores to tend to. Good luck in your search.

Gary
 
Judith Browning
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I think it is really hard to match up folks for any long term arrangement. We have offered a trade for a bit of land off of our forty acres....at 20 hours ($10. per hour) of work a month for five years (the Commitment) for six acres (@$2,000 per acre)in their name....I may have my math wrong it's been awhile... anyway the six acres would be for $12,000 but all in trade. There are so many variables involved...I think it takes a loooooong time to find the right match. We had conversations with several wonderful folks. I think if we kept trying we would find the perfect match but in the end decided we are on to our next 'great adventure' practicing Permaculture in a small town setting.
We tried to keep in mind what would have given us a jump start in our twenties...we were hard workers but had no money, just a naive set of ethics. I wouldn't expect someone that age to think like me now...give them another forty years.
I would encourage anyone with a large piece of land to consider selling or trading a piece of it to someone just starting out...we need more people on the land. There are many ways to make this a comfortable arrangement for everyone involved and a positive experience.
 
Ellen Schwab
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I am a believer in "bloom where you are planted".

There is no perfect place. There will be problems everywhere. Working hard and being flexible have served me well. I am also a big beleiver in pragmatism and fairness. I did read a few books, I do take advantage of the internet for specific information. But there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty and trying something. And, IME, farming is mostly common sense and paying attention. A balance of planning and rolling with the flow.

I, personally, do not want to follow someone around making sure they use the proper hand to feed. The only model I have seen is grandparents to parent to child ~ and many of these do not work at all. The successful ones bobble on that thin line of younger taking responsibility and older resepcting the accomplishment and rewarding with more hands off, but always willing to step back in and help or prevent catastrophy. I am sure every succession has it's heated discussions. The bottom line is there must be courtesy and respect from both sides ~ and the younger must be willing to earn their autonomy. In the most successful farm families, this begins with toddlers and is almost done by early 20s.

Honestly, I do not know of many opportunities to 'start at the top' ~ and while this is one to start pretty high, the top spot is filled by me and I don't plan to give it up totally.
 
Lynn Jacobs
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Ellen, I was giving generalities about living/working conditions. For the record we are not in our 20s - we have children in their 20s!

One place we worked I did the lunch and dinner cooking. The kitchen was a disaster, filthy and unorganized (old bachelor), so I cleaned it and made it workable for me in the kitchen, added shelves and such. I did all the dishes and cleanup even from his breakfast - and he couldn't be bothered to put his egg shells in the compost bucket or his tea bag in the garbage, both of which were 2 feet away. I did it without complaining and kept making the space better for him. But he didn't like how I washed the dishes. Never a comment or complaint that the dishes were dirty (b/c they weren't), but b/c I chose to rinse the dishes differently than he would I was bad and wrong. (Although I'm pretty sure he never did any dishes, but waited until his hired girl came in once a week and had her do it.)

This is just an example of one of the stupid issues that you would never expect to happen, and yet does creep up when you share a space. Yes, everyone gives up privacy in a shared house. Is that a good thing? It can be, but if you share your home you have to be willing to do more than give up a single room.

Again I will speak in generalities, things we've encountered, NOT directed at you personally: Will you have space in your kitchen cupboards/refrigerator set aside for their personal things? If you have animals in the house is there furniture free of hair where they can be comfortable sitting? Is their room completely devoid of your stuff - things stuffed in the closet, books on the shelf, etc. so they can feel like it's their own space? If they wake or sleep at an earlier or later time than you personally is that fine (as long as the work is getting done, I mean)? Do you attend to your laundry quickly so the machines are available, or do you leave it in the machines and on the floor so they wonder if they need to do your wash first so they can then do their own? Are you comfortable with them cleaning up their own space in their own time, or will you demand that they dust and vacuum weekly?

I would encourage anyone with a large piece of land to consider selling or trading a piece of it to someone just starting out...we need more people on the land. There are many ways to make this a comfortable arrangement for everyone involved and a positive experience.

Judith, I agree. I think a work/trade for a piece of land that someone can call their own is a great idea. That sort of thing should be in writing, of course. Not asking for myself, but what if someone wanted to work for the land faster than 5 years, say put in 20 hours a week and get it "paid off" in a year (or whatever - I'm not doing the math right now ), is that an option for you? One place we worked at mentioned they were willing to do a work trade for a couple of their acres, but honestly it was the worst section of their property. I know permaculture design would have fixed a lot of the problems, but they wouldn't have solved personality issues.

Anyway - I do think it's wonderful that there are so many people wanting to give others an opportunity to get started. But if you can't find the right person to live with then perhaps you
 
Judith Browning
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@ lynn jacobs

Our thought behind our offer was so that all of the persons time wasn't taken up with the trade...so that they could accomplish their own projects also. The five years was so that they couldn't own after a year and then sell the next to someone we wouldn't want for neighbors. We planned to have a five year rent to own or some such lease agreement drawn up. I think it is a good idea still even though we now are going to sell all of our property. The six acres has our walking path through it and is some of the nicest in terms of house site and garden...big trees...a small pond and a corner that could have had private access from us.

personalities were never the deciding factor....those we talked to were wonderful and we are pretty easy ourselves..it was our location...and then again we only tried for a year or so.
 
Lynn Jacobs
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That makes sense. And I know that the "bad ones" we've encountered are in the minority. And no place is ever perfect, even if it's your own and you don't share.
 
Michael Forest
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Ellen,thank you for starting this important topic. Actually this revitalizes the discussions on aging in place,long term homesteading and property legacy challenges, but with a more pronounced focus. We thought initially in our search for homesteading/ forest stewardship "partners", that we could easily make this happen as a win-win as we have not been primarily on the money side of things. That has not turned out to be the case. Communication through words with complex issues can easily dissolve into projections rather than confirmed agreement. Asking, asking, asking, what the other party means regarding specific requirements, capabilities, etc is essential.

As to Ellen's desire for a business plan coming from the interested party - why not? My interpretation (IMO) for such a requirement is simply to see how well the potential candidates "think" about what they're getting into. The landless individuals simply want to be told what is expected of them. As an example, probably few candidates understand the special tax structure when one has their property in say agricultural or timber status. There are limitations to one can legally do. The point here being the risk for having someone live on an owner's property lies with the owner. So for seekers to want some assuring commitment from the owner regarding longevity, it's understandable from a human nature point of view,but not from social system reality.

All in all property negotiation is complex running the gamut from the logical to the emotional. Homesteading lifestyle makes it even more difficult. I say this because: where are the success stories?
 
Michael Forest
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I want to clarify what I meant by trying to get potential candidates to think. This is not a generational thing at all. Thinking about one's personal future from a planning perspective which could plausibly be implemented is challenging to most people. It is hard work and can take a lot,really a lot, of contemplation. The ability to do this has been a cultural deficit for a long time. Some people claim critical thinking is not needed in the age of the internet. In the context of Ellen's quest she is defining, for her, an aspect of responsibility which is important to achieving a successful relationship.
 
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