Hi, I'm new to this forum and am very excited to have found it. My boyfriend and I are trying to save money for a smallish parcel of land on which to build sustainable housing, create a permaculture garden and food forest, and create a self sustaining environment in which to live (and eventually show others/share with others the process of such).
The problem with saving money is that gas and food prices are rising, we are in the process of moving (again) to a more reasonably priced area and we already live frugally. I was wondering if anyone knew if there were grants we could attain for our "project" from the federal/state government or a privately funded organization? In fact, any advice would be appreciated on starting anew, living (even more) frugally, or acquiring grants to purchase land for sustainable practices.
Check and see if your state department of agriculture has loan programs for new farmers. My state (NY) does. The USDA Farm Service Agency also has farm loan programs. One is for a part of a downpayment on a farm for people just starting out. You can see if what you are planning could fit into the concept of a farm by looking at their application info.
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/ The EQIP program offers up to a 90% payback for approved projects if you are considered a new farmer. I believe a new farmer is defined as someone who has farmed for less than 10 years. They will repay large portions of fencing for rotational grazing. I think there is also ways to get a hightunnel payed for. Virtually any "conservation" project can be approved and partially payed for.
http://www.beginningfarmers.org/ I believe the link above has a program where they hook you up with a retiring farmer who has no one to take over their farm, and would work a deal with someone who would like to take it over.
Try searching "beginning farmer" or something similar, I found a lot of info when I did.
You might also consider an intentional community with a farm base. Not all of them are communes, but you should also be careful to make sure you get something for your efforts if that does interest you, a lot of them are just looking for what amounts to slave labor, but not all. Some of them offer a legitimate deal for the right people.
Grants are typically offered for research type projects, and not just to buy land for a farm. But there are a lot of programs for very low interest or no interest loans to buy farm land, some with zero down, the beginning farmer link above has lots of great info for anyone wanting to get into farming.
There is also rural development loans. Usually these loans have a very low interest rate less than 5% and are specifically geared towards helping people populate rural areas. http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/RD_Loans.html
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. -E.B. White
Consider finding a local county or watershed land trust and try to figure out how to become a 'conservation buyer'. They often cultivate relationships with people who want their land to not become developed and are familiar with the grant programs... They might be able to set you up with a land purchase, but it would come stripped of development rights so that a portion would always remain either farmland or habitat, usually with a third party legal interest on the title. The granting agency basically reduces the acquisition cost in exchange for the land providing public benefit in perpetuity with the land trust administering the rights. Permaculture gardens, particularly zone 3 and 4 can provide many habitat functions while still providing yield. NRCS is the right place to go for 'Farm Bill Money' related to conservation.
Paul Cereghino- Stewardship Institute Maritime Temperate Coniferous Rainforest - Mild Wet Winter, Dry Summer
I second the suggestion for seedlings from the state dept of whatever. I've put in 150 nut, fruit, firewood and N fixer seedlings this spring, at ~$.50 each, including shipping.
Check your state for help. I do not know of any programs to help you buy land, but my state has lots programs to help farmers. Unfortunately, they all require 5+ acres to participate, and I only have 3.
If you can get a larger parcel than you need to support yourself, perhaps because some of it is marginal (eg rocky, too steep, inaccessible), look for programs which pay you not to use it. Like native grasses, not logging your woods or not starting a dairy farm.
I have been looking at properties in several areas, and have come to the conclusion that Texas acreage is VERY expensive (especially when weighing in the productivity factor). If you seek affordable land, look at the Ozarks or, Appalachia. Also, since those areas provide fewer "services" to the community, property taxes are much lower. If you demand new schools, libraries, museums, etc, you will need to bite the bullet and be willing to pay for them with property taxes. Another way to save on taxes (in many states) is to use a mobile home instead of a structure. Many states do not consider them as "improvements", and hence, they are not taxed.