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Site selection for a beginner  RSS feed

 
Stephen Dobek
Posts: 48
Location: Rutledge, GA
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Hi Grant,

Do you have any advice for selecting a site? Does it help me out if there's timber to be cut down or am I doing myself a favor by finding something that's open. What attracted you to the property you're working?

I'm currently looking at a 70 acre tract in Greene Co. GA that's mostly planted pine with a handful of oaks and hickories along the creek that runs through the property. It would be a good deal of work to clear everything out and replant with all of the pecans, chestnuts, mulberries, persimmons, mayhaws and other potted stock I've got now, but this spot is also bank owned and its been on the market for almost two years.

Thanks for your insight.

Stephen
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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I think it is of primary importance to first set clear goals, and then select land that meets them. A Holistic Goal, if you will.

"I wish to establish an antifragile foodshed for myself and those close to me. This family/friend tribe will enjoy lifeway patterns similar to hunter/gatherers with laptops. The surplus food produced in the system will be marketed at maximum margins within 60 miles of the farm to support establishment and growth of further agroforestry endeavors. Our tribe will thrive."

Therefore:

Criteria for land (for me, your goals may be different)

1) Proximity to markets & social groups. I'm a single man in my early 30s, and had tried farming in an isolated area. I realized to succeed at my goals (farmscale permie demonstration site w/ a dating scene), I had to be within 30 minutes of a major university or metro area. I ended up 8 miles from the University of Iowa by intent, not luck. In the Farmscale Permaculture course, I explain in very real numbers how two identical properties, one 5 miles from town and one 20 miles from town can have a $300,000 differential in EFFECTIVE value that may not be reflected in the asking price. In short, time is money, and driving 30 minutes EXTRA round-trip to the hardware store when you're starting up a farm (the first 40 years) does indeed add up in lost time. If time is money (and it is), you can justify a mortgage(if your initial intent was to pay cash) or a bigger mortgage for the right piece of property in regards to proximity to commerce/services/markets.

Varied topography My site has areas of flat, hilly, bombed-out crop land, and wooded. This multi-edged landscape lends both antifragility and demonstrated versatility for others learning about agroforestry systems. If your entire property is in a floodplain, it may suck ass ONLY one day every three years. That one day may wash your house, pickup, tree nursery, and livestock away. Ask me how I know.

Cheap land is often cheap for a reason, and expensive land is *usually* expensive for a reason. I think the primary factor is establishing a sense of place, and then going from there.

I talk about a lot of this here:

http://www.slideshare.net/organicgrant/land-by-any-means-necessary-moses-conf-2014






 
Stephen Dobek
Posts: 48
Location: Rutledge, GA
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I'm a little confused how the down payment on a $400,000 farm can be as low as $8,000. I talked to a bank rep yesterday about the tract I'm looking at and he said on a piece of property like the one I'm looking at they usually require a 25% down payment which would mean I'd need $40000 right off the bat. I've got a day job but I'm not rich, and interning and apprenticing for the last three years didn't exactly leave me flush with cash either.

The biggest source of frustration for me is the fact that I can operate all the equipment, raise anything with 4 legs or 2 wings, grow anything and build stuff but I can't seem to put that into a focused plunge into the real estate market. Every time I try to figure things out I just walk away more confused and disheartened. Some land is cheap and some is astronomically expensive, some would make a suitable site for a permie animal orchard and some wouldn't and I can't seem to make heads or tails of it all.

Where can I turn to learn about grant writing, or wooing investors, or buying real estate? I'm tired of reading about all this stuff, I'll never stop reading, but I feel like I need to have something to show for all of the learning and hard work I've done these last few years. I know there are young people out there doing this stuff and making a nice living while doing so and I'm ready to be like them, but I can't escape this huge wall called 'real estate' that seems to be in my way.

Thanks for your response!
stephen
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Stephen Dobek wrote:I'm a little confused how the down payment on a $400,000 farm can be as low as $8,000. I talked to a bank rep yesterday about the tract I'm looking at and he said on a piece of property like the one I'm looking at they usually require a 25% down payment which would mean I'd need $40000 right off the bat. I've got a day job but I'm not rich, and interning and apprenticing for the last three years didn't exactly leave me flush with cash either.
stephen


FSA offers 5% downpayment loans for beginning farmers.

http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/newsReleases?area=newsroom&subject=landing&topic=pfs&newstype=prfactsheet&type=detail&item=pf_20120330_farln_en_lngrnt.html
 
Stephen Dobek
Posts: 48
Location: Rutledge, GA
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Yes I know this, but on one of the slides from that presentation you show the down payment being cut even below that to $8000. I dont understand how that happens.
 
Grant Schultz
Posts: 219
Location: Iowa City, Iowa Zone 5
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Stephen Dobek wrote:Yes I know this, but on one of the slides from that presentation you show the down payment being cut even below that to $8000. I dont understand how that happens.


That was acting as your own buyers agent, and applying a 3% commission ($400,000 x 3% = $12,000) for a listed property towards the down payment.

Eat the system.
 
allen lumley
pollinator
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Stephen Dobek : This is merely a different way to look at Site Selection- closer to the way your Great-Grandfather would have done it !

This is totally dependent on the number of animals he proposed to Husband ! G.G. would have gone for the water 1st ! As most farms had a

milch cow and a few chickens and a pig or two for household use and possibly "Pin Money " for the farmers wife the location of a good year-round

water source, and separation from the animals would come 1st ! This would determine location and size of the barn which would have been built

1st !

Mrs.G.G. would get her house second and got her water two ways, from rainwater off of the farmhouse roof into a cistern in a basement under

the Kitchen This was very important "Soft Water'' and much of her cleaning would be done with this water, and perhaps carried down to the

barn/milk house for clean up there ! Return trips cooking drinking water gets carried back for the kitchen !

With Electricity on the land your water problems are pretty well solved- BUT a word of caution - Living a close to Atlanta and its privatized Water

District, I would worry about them stealing water out of YOUR Aquifer.

There are court battles going on right now that will determine if access to Clean water is a '' Human right ! "

Usually About the 1st of the year my wife and I drift down to Fla For a couple of months often using Wanner Robins as a camping stop for this
Retired Vet ! Things are pretty around where you are but my wife cant take the heat so we will be home by mid April !

For the Good of The Crafts ! Big AL Good luck !
 
Stephen Dobek
Posts: 48
Location: Rutledge, GA
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Ok, now I understand that a little better.

Did you go all the way through with getting a real estate license or did you just do the reading? Are there any legal pitfalls you've come across doing things this way? Are there any real estate related resources you can recommend?

Did the property you're on now offer you any other advantages, aside from proximity to town like timber? Your website says it was mostly used for monocropping prior to our arrival, did this present any challenges with getting a perennial cover established?

Most of the available properties I've found that are within my reach have merchantable timber, pine mostly, and since I know a forester who runs a very good timber company I'd say this is an advantage. Even if pines typically acidify the poop out of the soil having a way to defray the cost of purchasing the land is a must for me.

Thanks for your responses, you've given me a lot to think about. Learning how to grow stuff and handle animals calmly has been the easy part I guess, the real work is just beginning.

Mr. Lumley I grew up in Buffalo and yes things get sizzling hot down here, but I think my days of shoveling snow are behind me. Also, GA presents excellent opportunities for year round grazing.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Stephen, I've owned rural land for 25 years, grew up on rural land, helped my father develop his retirement property in the mountains, and my top several things are:

1. Clean Drinking Water from a spring or well that produces at least 7-10 gallons a minute (which means make sure the local rock formations don't contaminate the water, like radon)
2. Year 'round creek or pond water with water rights if you can swing it.
3. Southern exposure in the northern hemisphere or a northern exposure in the southern hemisphere.
4. Make sure the fences are really on the correct property lines, and that the neighbors don't have buildings or roads a few feet onto your property. It might require getting a survey, or finding out if there are already survey markers on the corners and boundaries.
5. A lot of online real estate sites also show police logs for the area. You can see what kind of calls they've had. If it seems like there's a lot of police activity nearby, you'll want to know.
6. Not more than an hour's round trip from a hardware store or grocery store.
7. Don't assume you will want to hike into it for years to come. That's only fun for the first year, maybe two if you're really young. But usually one winter cures you of that!
8. If you find yourself saying, "I'll have to make this work, " rather than, "This is better than I ever expected," odds are it will be very difficult to make it work. Look around and see what the neighbors are doing. If they are growing crops and raising animals, then it's probably okay.
9. Always ask on the real estate papers if there are any buried tanks on the property and what's in them.

Make sure there hasn't been "permission" to cross it by local people. Sometimes permission can be just not stopping other people from using it to get from one place to another., sometimes just on horseback or a dirt road, allowing cattle to go from one place to another, or even hikers if it backs up to a national forest. If their crossing it goes on for a long enough period, sometimes that can actually give them a right-of-way across the property depending on state laws. It might seem neighborly, but you want to be able to control your boundaries, especially if you have a creek or a pond that kids or people could possible drown in, or hunters using it because they always have, and don't intend to stop using it, especially if you have animals on it. See if there are gates on any of the fence lines, or no fences.

Before you cut down any trees I would live there a minimum of one year, or two. See which trees you need for a wind break, see which ones the owls/hawks prefer, because they need big trees to nest in, to hunt from and to take their catch back to. Honeybees are probably in a few of those trees, lots of critters you need use those trees. The ecological balance of what is there now is important to health of everything that's growing there. Better not to really change it, jerk it around, and lose your critters that will help you keep things in balance.

Mature oak and hickory trees are extremely valuable for soil improvement, leaf mulch, and show where there is lots of ground water. I would keep those and be extremely glad you have them.

Pines are fine, they are good for small nesting birds, they sound great in the wind, and are good for firewood if you let it cure (don't burn sappy wood because it will line your chimney or stovepipe and could start on fire. If they fall over and you let it get pithy, they are great soil amendments for acid loving fruit. Although I wouldn't build near one. They are shallowly rooted and can lift up foundations. They are always dropping needles and make a constant mess, especially in rain gutters. They drip sap, and have thick pollen in the spring that some people are really allergic to. It gets everywhere, even on the dashboard of the car, it creates a type of mold growth on windows. And there are little hovering flies that hang out underneath them that get inside and make you crazy. But they have their place in nature.

I don't mean this to sound too out there, but try to figure out what will work with the property, rather than try to change the property into something it isn't. Permaculture is about making observations of Nature and using them. How Nature works is different in different places, so watching what is actually going on around you is important. You can't fool Mother Nature, and you will have a miserable time trying.







 
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