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Is it worth it to by previously owned conventional farmland  RSS feed

 
Posts: 124
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In a couple years I want to by some land in either New Jersey, Penn, Delaware or Virginia and it would be hard to find something like immaculate pasture for a decent price.

I mean, anyone buying decent land nowadays, is basically buying conventionally used cornfields sprayed with pesticides. Am I right?

Would you guys be comfortable farming that was previously soaked with all kinds of chemicals? I don't know, its just kind of icky to me, I wish there was a study of when the effects of those chemicals wore off, or something like that. 
 
Posts: 700
Location: rainier OR
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The chemicals leave pretty fast that's why they have to respray several.times  a year. The topsoil being thin from overuse is more of  a concern but that can be rectified by grazing animals if they are properly.managed.
 
pollinator
Posts: 10119
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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There's some danger in buying old orchard land because heavy metals used to be sprayed on the trees to control pests and these of course don't leave the soil.

There's not likely to be any organic material to speak of in conventional fields such as cornfields. 

Personally I would look for something kind of overgrown and uneven, with some trees, rather than conventional farmland, unless you plan to farm conventionally or need a lot of flat open land for something like pastured poultry.  Rough land is also possibly going to be cheaper than farmland.
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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myself I would look for underdeveloped land rathern than old farmland, look for something already growing trees
 
                      
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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Absolutely.  If you know what you are doing, or learn what to do, worn out land can be resurrected in a few years.


Look at soilsecrets.com

FUNGI.com

get rock dust, basalt, or Planters II

Grow comfrey, Bocking 14.

Etc.

It is not that complicated, but it does take work.


 
Charlie Michaels
Posts: 124
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I was thinking lots of comfrey too.
 
Posts: 16
Location: Wilmington, Delaware, Eastern Piedmont, USDA 7a
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I was thinking about this overnight and I think that overgrown forestland might be good from a startting material point of view, you have trees to make hugelkulture beds with, build with, compost for energy with, grow mushrooms on. The initial inputs of chainsawing and perhaps bringing dirt on site to cover the hugelbeds might be more expensive then seeding and mulching, but the woodlot site might be less expensive. Food for thought I suppose. Best of luck!
 
Posts: 96
Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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In my opinion it is more ethical and in ways better to use an old worn out farm than come in and deforest something pristine or something that has pioneer species already being replaced by secondary. Growth is somewhat unrealistic.
An old worn out corn field can have the swales installed very easily with a scraper blade. The productive guilds could be planted by seed along the swales very easily. Filberts, Aronia, and Buffalo Berries would be an example of a very productive hedgerow guild system.
The bottom of the swales is easily planted with cranberries and lingon berries.
Contaminants and so forth are as prevalent in the forest as they are in old fields. Most of the eastern mountains have been cleared two or three times. You have no way of being sure of no heavy metals in the middle of the forest. I can show you several places in West Virginia that is paradise and toxic as can be with no kind of documentation of its status. We just know due to local history of what was there a century ago.
paul stamets has demonstrated great techniques in detoxifying areas using mushrooms. Many areas saw dust can be obtained for free or nominal charge.  Jujube, Hazelnuts, Aronia, Blue Berries, Black Berries, Raspberries, Alpine Strawberries, Cranberries, and lingon berries all can be grown from seed and will be producing great guns in under four years. Within that time without adding any more chemicals the amounts of residue is probably going to be under what is blown in by the wind.
Leaf litter with the underground organism will build topsoil. Swales will keep the water on the land. Even if you are not running livestock on the ground the wild life will take care of the manure to a point.
Something else to look at as an option also.
There is the possibility of raising truffles in an old field. The process normally requires removing all trees from an area for a length of time to destroy the compete tree root thriving mushroom species that could compete with the truffle mycelium. An old field that is still clear could be planted with the hazel nuts inoculated with the truffles and made into a food forest from the ground up.
 
Posts: 143
Location: Zone 5 Brimfield, MA
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It seems most people are on old farmland.  I'm wwoofing on a field that previously had been growing Roundup Ready Soybeans.  Roundup Ready crops are grown widely and are sprayed with Glyphosate, which there is a lot of information on.  Since you may come across such a property, here is a great article on Glyphosate http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/May2011_Huber.pdf ; The important thing to note is that it becomes inert quickly, but actually stays in the soil! It can then be reactivated by a phosphorus fertilizer.

Beware of extra nasty hardpan that will prevent trees from rooting!  This can require years of hardy tree root penetration, explosives, or perhaps skilled use of a subsoil plow and follow up management to prevent it from resealing.

However, I would still recommend buying old farmland if the price is fair.  Its a lot of work to cut down existing trees, and healing degraded treeless land is better ecologically.
 
                      
Posts: 56
Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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Regarding hardpan and trees difficulties, you might search GROASIS and the tutorial.

They show how the tap root can penetrate rocks, but only the taproot.
 
Posts: 505
Location: Eastern Kansas
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I live in Kansas, and I have heard that old corn land might not grow things well for a while. I am a little vague about the details.

On the other hand, pretty much every acre in this area has been used for corn at one time or another, so obviously any problems DO wear off as every subdivision has its trees and grasses!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 10119
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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jonbonz wrote:
In my opinion it is more ethical and in ways better to use an old worn out farm than come in and deforest something pristine or something that has pioneer species already being replaced by secondary.



You're right about it being more ethical to restore old farm land.  I guess one has to weigh one's abilities and timeline with the highest ethics.  Starting from a bare cornfield seems a daunting task.    I don't think anyone here suggested "deforesting" anything, just that having some trees is helpful.  Slopes are helpful.
 
John Sizemore
Posts: 96
Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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In referenced what is the problem with the old corn fields is a result of the practices. The old fields have been plowed so much that there is nothing organic left. The chemicals used make the land sterile in many ways with no mycelium, earth worms or anything else. The use of fertilizers means the corn grew larger but it sucked out all the micro nutrients out of the soil that the fertilizers did not provide. The use of super phosphate caused a cement like layer a few feet underground to prevent water from going down into the water table and blocks roots from penetrating very deep so you have a swamp desert cycle in the field.
Permaculture can fix all of those problems.  The method of fixing the field is faster and easier than clearing a grown up wood land.
To fight the hardpan problem just look at some of the pioneer species of trees and use them. geoff lawton talks about the stages of repairing land and converting to food forest. Paulownia and poplars are legumes, fast growing, and forage for livestock. Mulberries while not a legume is good fire wood, forage crop for cattle and plain old delicious fruit producing. The zone three, four and five areas could be seeded easily with these trees while concentrating on the zone one and two for more intensive work. For seeding all that would really need to be done is to broadcast the seed in the late fall. The seeds would be stratified naturally and sprout in the spring. The treed over area could be fenced and rotational grazed in a year or two after the trees are planted. These trees could easily loosen up the hardpan and allow follow on species to take over. The reality is once the first holes in the hardpan gets established then as long as there are trees they will keep them open and make them more prevalent.
Also while writing this I had a thought of mixing in the pioneer tree seeds along with a Holtzer vegetable seed blend with sawdust in a manure spreader and just spread it all over empty fields. Within a three or four year time frame the area would be a transition forest with a good covering of leaf litter and underground life.
All the trees would still be small enough to use in a chipper or even grazed out with livestock.
 
John Sizemore
Posts: 96
Location: West Virginia/ Dominican Republic
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This video about half way through shows a seven acre farm that was a tired worn out place just a few years before.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxsPfeSRIFo&feature=related
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 10119
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I guess it is the difference in climate between here and the corn belt. 
 
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Some advice I have given friends in the past:
Do NOT buy farmland in/near an Amish community.  Don't get me wrong, I have the highest regard for the Amish.  My point is that if the property was usable farmland, and not priced above its value, the Amish would have already bought it.  If they have not bought it, chances are, there is something wrong with it.
 
Posts: 11
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The bottom line is you have to work with the land that ia available to you. There is not alot of good land left in my area, for a price I can afford. It may take some time to develop the land, but the knowledge gained and pride that will be instilled in my family. Will make converting farm land to fertile soil more valuable then a piece of land that is already in good condition.
 
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