i want opinions on this conservation idea. buy farm, timberland and other natural places. use the land to make profit. lease farmland for renewable energy development and put conservation easements on the farms but allow forestry, renewable energy like say 10% of the pasture is leased out for solar panels. the areas where wetlands are or used to be are restored and protected with easements along with the rest of the property. only organic farming will be allowed in the easement restrictions. timberland will be protected with a conservation easement that only allows sustainable forestry and recreation and a certain amount of cabin foot prints where a cabin is allowed to be built for a second home like that national forest summer homes program. its the american dream to own a cabin in the woods. all the land before the easements will be thoroughly looked at and restored. for example a 500 acre property is to big for one family to own so there should be two options here, allow it to be subdivided into smaller 100 acre farms or allow a 10 acre development zone where a cohousing community can be built in order to prevent land hording. for a while the land holding company would do farm lease to own, solar leases, wind leases, logging timber sales, grazing leases, cabin leases, home leases and any other eco friendly revenue generation like camping and other recreational use fees to make a huge amount of money. the more land owned and used the faster and faster land could be bought and preserved for these uses but prevent oil, gas and mining uses along with cookie cutter housing subdivisions. also look at ted turner who owns millions of acres that he preserves. even re acquire the severed mineral rights. what are your thoughts on this idea? should the cabin foot prints be sold off at the size of a quarter acre or included in the big timberland and leased to the cabin owner? the conservation easement will only allow a certain amount of cottages for second home use. should the timberland be owned by non profit community forest with a cabin lease program? also the smaller properties bought would permit a house or cabin to be built in the conservation easement before selling it to a land steward. should there be a restriction on these private lands that only allow a person that will actually work the land to be able to own it like they do with some protected farms excluding the vacation second homes? i got a great business plan and other business ideas that will allow me to build this machine. is there a such thing as a for profit land bank? land bank that holds, revitalizes and resells the land to a good steward? a community land trust is another idea but its not a nice feeling renting as opposed to owning the land outright. if you have any great ideas or suggestions to this let me know and also any business formations or ownership or other ideas for this let me know.
I can see a few holes in this plan. Not because I am negative in nature, but because this is something that perplexes almost every large landowner out there; how to make their land make money. On paper it seems so easy, but it is anything but.
Easements: There is nothing easy about easements. A Landowner when he gets their deed either by purchasing or inheritance, with that land comes a huge set of rights that looks like asparagus stalks in a rubber band bundle. All easements do is sell off those rights one at a time. The more that are sold off, the more rights lost, but more importantly, the more regulations that exist. This is even more so when these easements involve tax write offs. A lot of the easements have rules that counter other easements you list. For instance, leasing the land for power production automatically takes it out of agricultural production. If the land has been in ag production for years, that money has to be paid back for a series of years...up to 15 years!
Allowability: Never underestimate the power of jealousy. My farm sits on top of a huge hill and I was approached to have (3) mega-windmills put up here, but was turned down by the town for permitting mostly because only a few of us living on hills would get a lot of money for leasing our land. Building cabins, selling off power generation, etc, all require town approval and subject to restrictions and bureaucratic red tape.
Reselling land to a good steward: That will never happen, because as diligent as a person might be, as soon as a piece of land is sold, the ability to control that land is gone. I might sell to the most upmost buyer, but it does not mean that guy will not sell it. I have seen this so many times. Once a guy was offered 3 times more for his land then what it was worth, but he said he was giving it to his son. The day after he gave it to his son, the son sold it to the neighbor who had the house bulldozed within the week. My Cousin clearcut his land before the ink was dry on his deed.
Property Taxes: They are high, and every time you add a cabin, power generation unit, etc, they go up in insane amounts. Mine have doubled in only a few years time and now pay over $10,200 a YEAR! That is straight forest and farmland. I cannot imagine what they would be if I had a solar farm here, or had forty cabins. I could save money on my forest by putting it into Tree Growth, but then I could not put cabins in that forest either. See how the rules forbid other things from happening? And it begs the question, just who will pay for the taxes until these "improvements" can be made, and the portions needing to be sold are sold off? The permitting processes for this will take several years at least, so just paying the property taxes will eat into profits. Few investors will wait years and years to recoop their investment.
Location is also everything. Sure I have hundreds of acres that could be used to put in a solar farm, but getting that produced power out onto the grid will be costly. I do not live anywhere near three phase power which tends to stay close to industrialized and urban areas, just the places where hundreds of acres would be costly to buy. And even if there was land available, would it be allowed to converted into a solar farm by town rules? Ag stays ag because it is remote, and most people dislike change, especially if you will make money and they will not. So while it would be cheap to situate a solar farm on my own farm here, it would be costly to build a transmission line from my farm to the closest transmission line.
Here just about every single family farm has over 500 acres, so it is easily manageable by a family. I am not sure what the average is...perhaps 600 acres here, with some who only have 100 acres, while my neighbor has far more at 3200 acres. On myown farm (and NOT 3200 acres), here there are places I can improve, and I have plans for that, but overall it takes a fair chunk of land to be fully-farming...at least here. It is interesting because I always calculated that at 450 acres.
To me the whole overall plan reminds me of how Moldova was set up after the Russian's left their country, subdividing and splitting up the land to make it "fair" and it has been nothing but a collosal failure for that country; abject poverty to say the least. That is putting it mildly!
Travis has brought up a lot of the issues that Government Bureaucracy brings into the game of Land Ownership and use.
I am wondering how you came up with the idea that 500 acres is to much for one family to own and manage.
I have friends that own and farm one million acres, they make money at it too, the are also employers and thus help their community with jobs.
One of these friends does a lease to farm contract within the Share Cropper model and it works very nicely for both parties.
The only way I know to keep control of land is to own it with Dower and Curtesy along with Mineral Rights.
If you don't have the Mineral Rights, someone else does and they can, at anytime, come in and exercise those rights to collect the minerals which might mean your buildings just went away for access to those minerals.
Your only recourse in such a situation, will involve lawyers and government officials and it will be dependent upon the court to decide in your favor, this rarely happens.
It is some of the issues that I bring up that I am so supportive of Paul Wheaton and what he is doing at the labs.
A lot of people do not realize just what he is up too. In my case, a single person farmer, trying to full-time farm on my own, I am limited in what I can do on my farm, because if I try something too far outside what is known to work, and it fails, the scale of doing that might mean I lose a crop or really lose money. It could cost me everything...and on a 281 year old farm, that is a lot. So I have to really research and be calculative on what I do. I have a farm on the line!!
Now Paul Wheaton and the Labs; that is a bit different. Because people go to his place and pay money, he can try new things that are really radical. It actually serves two purposes...it lets people learn permie techniques, but also spreads the financial risk. For instance his property taxes will be paid whether the new hugel fails or not, whereas that is NOT the case with me. I have to pay my property taxes no matter what happens. Some people feel this is wrong, that he is taking advantage of people, but it is not at all...it is a sort of farm insurance for trying really untested things. He is assured through the help of others, that he will survive. That is assurance/insurance at its best.
I applaud it.
I can take what is used at the labs, what has worked previously on my farm, and apply both. By having a collaborative of people assuring his farm (called Wheaton Labs) stays viable, it ultimately helps my farm too. My only wish is that I could not help him out more, but the distance from Maine to Montana is just too great. But I do support what he does, and that goes to everyone who has, or ever has, chipped in so that "radical" ideas become mainstream farming.
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