Do you dream about moving to the country and starting a small hobby farm? While running even a small farm is hard work, it's worth it to fulfill your dream. The good thing about hobby farms is that you can often purchase the farmland for a very low price — rural land is inexpensive, and you're not farming or ranching on an industrial scale, so you don't need much acreage. However, purchasing rural land is a new experience for many people. The process can often be confusing. When you're searching for a hobby farm property, keep these four tips in mind to help you find the right land for you.
1. Ensure You Have Access Rights and Water Rights
Even though you're buying a small farm, you're still subject to issues that all farmers face: access rights and water rights. Understanding these rights is very important to make sure you're purchasing land that's usable for your hobby farm.
Access rights are vitally important to a farm property. How is the land accessed? Does it come with easement rights or are there shared road rights? If the land is sandwiched on all sides by private property or government-owned property, you can technically be accused of trespassing any time you attempt to access your land.
Water rights are equally as important. If your land is on a watershed owned by a city, you may not have any right to access the groundwater. Likewise, water rights may have been sold by the previous owner to a large farm or factory nearby, which can also prevent you from digging a well. Without water, you won't be able to get very far on your hobby farm journey. Make sure you're purchasing land with both access rights and water rights to ensure it's usable for a hobby farm.
2. Find Out if You'll Be Able to Make Income
Hobby farms, by their nature, are meant for fun and not meant as income sources. While living on a farm property can drastically reduce your expenses by allowing you to become more self-sufficient, you can't rely on a hobby farm to make a living. You'll need to have another source of income, such as your savings or a job off of the farm.
If you need to find work, then you need to make sure that there are jobs in the area. Some professions will find this easier than others — teachers, for example, are in demand nearly everywhere, whereas software developers are not. Before you commit to purchasing your farm property, take a look at the local job listings and make sure work is available within a reasonable driving distance.
3. Buy Improved Farmland Rather Than Raw Land
When you're trying to start up a hobby farm on a budget, purchasing improved land is a safer bet than buying raw land. Raw land is more difficult to acquire financing for and has higher initial development costs — you'll typically need to build housing, fencing, a well, and a septic system in order to start up your farm. This can be quite expensive. Purchasing land that was previously used as a farm and has been improved from its natural state is typically less expensive than developing raw land into a farm property by yourself.
4. Make Sure There Are No Contaminants in the Soil
No matter what you're planning to do with your hobby farm, it's vitally important that you test the groundwater and the soil for chemical contaminants. Your watershed may be downstream from a hog farm or a factory, whose toxic runoff can end up in your farm's soil. Whether you're gardening, raising animals or simply drinking water from your well, you don't want anything in your water or your soil that is potentially hazardous.
Starting a hobby farm is hard work, but it's a rewarding experience. Keep these tips in mind when you're searching for farm properties in order to find land that will work for your needs. It's also a good idea to speak to a real estate agent that understands the needs of small-scale hobby farmers and can match you with farmland that's suitable for you as you'll likely need some help purchasing land for your farm — it's a very different experience from buying a home in the suburbs!