Country and Farm Life
Farm and Country Living
What is a farm?
A farm can be anything from a 5-acre parcel where you can raise chickens or goats, or other livestock to a 100 acre ranch to breed and tend to thoroughbred horses, or grow agricultural products like wheat and corn. Usually when referring to living in the country, we imagine living outside the municipal boundaries of a town and own a piece of land larger than what we can find inside the town limits.
What are the positive aspects of owning a farm?
Can produce income. Cattle farming, raising poultry or hogs or other livestock, or growing soy, can be attractive to many people for the income aspects of the farm. Many farms can be lucrative if properly managed. In Delaware, many farms are poultry properties that can garner a large income depending on the size (number of chicken houses.) Large properties not being fully utilized can be leased out to area farmers to expand their crop growth. The biggest attraction is, in many cases, the fact that you are the boss. You decide on what you’re going to grow, who you’re going to market to etc. Your success will depend in part, on your skill in animal husbandry, which is the science of caring for and raising farm animals, and your skill set in modern technology.
A farm can be passed down generationally. As each successive farmer raises their family, they may decide to pass the farm or ranch down to their children, who most likely have grown up living the farm life and already have the familiarity and skillset to carry on the farm operations long after you’ve passed.
Lifestyle. A farmer or rancher as in other industries, surrounds themselves with other like-minded people and families who support one another and come to one another’s aid in times of need and distress. The table conversation is often about crop yield, improvement of products and efficiency, the newest farm implements, a new seed science being studied, the predicted rains and snow and how it will affect them. Many people get into farming to recapture what they perceive as a simpler lifestyle.
Customization. You can customize your farm to suit your style and of course to physically customize your farm or ranch to create a better atmosphere to improve your output.
Lower Costs. A well oiled farm can pay for itself over time. The stronger skills you develop, the better your income. Your ability to properly manage the farm financially, equates to profit and often times expansion opportunities.
Location. Farms and ranches due to their size, are located in the less inhabited parts of the county. Typically, in Sussex County in Delaware, these farms are in the central and western side of the county where property is in abundance. Most farmers are not so struck with the location of the farm as they are with the proximity to the farm services needed to keep the farm in efficient operation.
What are the not-so positive aspects of Farm and Ranch ownership?
Price. Farms and ranches are not cheap. They can run from half a million dollars for an operational farm on up into the millions. The cost of ownership and ensuing operation continues to rise as building and material costs rise with the economy and demand.
Appreciation may not be as high. A well managed farm can yield appreciable returns and as farms become scarce, should the need to sell arise, the price also rises with the scarcity of available, in operational farms. Conversely, a farm not well tended to; poor operations, poor financials, high mortality rates, dilapidated buildings like poultry houses, manure sheds, pole barns, horse stables, undersized paddocks, etc, will show a much lower return on the dollar.
You’re responsible for everything on the farm. If there’s a problem, you are the one responsible unless your supplier is somehow at fault and your insurance does not cover the loss. While there are federal aid programs to help farmers, these come at a very slow pace in many cases and often will not cover all your loss or needs.
There are rules; local, state, and federal that need to be adhered to. In most cases, you have to follow certain guidelines set by others if you are going to farm. Some getting into chicken farming for example, believe they can transport their stock out of state and sell them in local markets, perhaps in Philadelphia for example. Delaware does not allow live transport and your supplier will expect a full accounting of what they supplied you to grow verses what they collect at the end of the roaster or broiler growing cycle.
Special tips for first-timers.
Get professional help. Choose a Realtor who is knowledgeable about farms and ranches and an attorney who has expertise and experience and speaks the language.
Be informed. Be sure to demand the current owner’s financial statements to see the financial structure, the mortality rate, the farms production rating over time, the farm’s utility bills, how they stack up against other like farms, any leases in place, etc. Be an informed consumer.
Do your comparison homework. Shop around. Be sure you know the farm you have your eye on is going to meets your overall goals. A farm or ranch purchase is often a huge undertaking with very large (and short term) loans involved, and many times, multiple loans.
Diversity. If looking into an agricultural farms, be sure you can diversify your crop with seasons, demand, economic pressures, etc. If you’re seeking a poultry farm, be sure you have enough chicken house space for roasters as well as broasters, seasonal demands and suppliers will change your bird type. Be sure there is ample space to add a chicken house in the future if the need arises. Is the ranch you’re considering adequate to raise thoroughbreds with large enough paddocks and stables etc.