This is a time for practicing patience, a time to be grateful for a full life and busy days.
You see, we found a farm. Our farm. A farm we knew to be ours as soon as we turned the corner onto Stuart Road and laid our eyes on the white colonial house set against the red barn in the distance, a sloping pasture of beef steer between us. It was the first clear-blue-sky day of the year, the first warmth of spring even though we were well into April. The image is framed in my mind...as we drove up the road to see the 16 acres open up in front of us for the first time.
Wait, is that the place we are going to see?
After more than a year and a half of farm hunting (which we have evolved into a Wisconsin hunting season all its own), we had become professionally skeptical when visiting any acreage, landscape, house, barn or 'neighborhood' in our price range. We'd get our hopes up reading property descriptions online or listening to an owner tout the grandness of his or her farm. However, upon a first visit, most had either a barn or house (or both) ready to collapse or a neighborhood industrial park, quarry, CAFO or electrical transfer station that proved instantly less than desirable. This property looked good on paper, but we knew better than to get our hopes up. We tried to fight back the pure excitement as we approached this gorgeous piece of land on the quiet, one-lane road of the Town of Plymouth in Rock County.
House (not falling 0ver). Check
Barn (not caving in). Check
Land (suited for agriculture and sufficient in quantity). Check
Bonus: Garage to convert to commercial kitchen. Existing fenced pasture. Peace & quiet. Agricultural neighbors. Fenced yard. New roof on house and barn.
We didn't have to say anything to each other, we both knew - in the way that you just know - that we independently wanted this to be the property we would steward as our farm. It was a moment of still and quiet bliss as we settled into the idea that we have found our new home, and the land on which to cultivate our farm-business dreams.
After the hour and a half spent touring what we instantly knew to be our future home and farm, we drove the 'neighborhood' (as we have come to call it, tongue in cheek), cruised through downtown Beloit to get the lay of the land and then headed home to attend the bachelorette party of a good friend. Sunday morning we called the seller's agent to let them know we wanted to put in an offer. And Monday afternoon we found ourselves driving to Janesville to fill out a contract and (hopefully) be on our way to purchasing a farm.
That first visit was Saturday, April 20th.
Today is Sunday, June 9th. And this is where the practice in patience comes in.
Not that you need all the details (which I will inevitably fill in later), but things are progressing smoothly, although at a snail's pace. The sellers accepted our offer. We updated our business plan and financial information, which we then used to submit our loan application to the Farm Service Agency (FSA). The house passed the home, well and septic inspections, and some high nitrate levels in the water were remedied. Then we handed off all our paperwork to our commercial lender too. And now, we wait.
To some degree, the waiting is to be expected as we are applying for a Farm Service Agency (FSA) Beginning Farmer Loan which takes at least 45 days for approval and appraisals. This loan is complicated in that we work with FSA and a commercial lender, and in essence have two mortgages, at different interest rates. This loan program was established to help beginning farmers (and we qualify as socially disadvantaged farmers too) access the credit needed to purchase land or secure an operating loan in order to get started. In the big picture, that means that the FSA doesn't quite work at the same eager pace as a commercial bank. But that OK, we're just grateful for this program which is the only option for us to get onto land in a financially responsible way, so we're willing to sit patiently and keep our fingers crossed.
On May 7th we handed over our giant folder of application materials to our FSA loan officer, and when I saygiant, I mean it. The application contains 10 different forms, along with a generous helping of supporting materials, but more on that to come later. Toward the end of May we heard the good news that our application was "complete" and found its way in to the FSA "system". Now our application will wait in line to be reviewed in the order in which it was received.
All we have to do now is keep calm, cross all our fingers and toes, and be very nice to all of our loan officers. Meanwhile, we are preparing for a move out of the city and in to the country (oh, just that!). We'll practice patience along the way; be loving and kind to each other when the wait or the thought of packing or the uncertainty bears heavy; and enjoy the excitement and mystery that will unfold ahead of us.
And of course, we still have endless farm planning to undertake, like where to find heritage breed feeder pigs and pullets at an awkward time of year or what breed of dairy cow we'll bring home (because if you're going to go crazy...you might as well go totally crazy). There are plans to finalize for low cost animal housing, because there is a big different between knowing what your dream mobile chicken housing looks, and how you will actually build it. And, most importantly, now that we know we are landing in Rock County, we can actually look for markets...because a farm isn't a business if you can't sell what you raise. And those are just the very short term needs. We're also looking forward to planning the orchard, not to mention general farm layout and fencing. It's all a big investment of time and funds, and we want to be thoughtful in our process and installations.
If all goes well, we hope to be farm owners this July (next month)! We are prepared for the inevitable hiccups and heartaches along the way, so we're not attached to an exact date (although we do give up our city home on July 31!). At this point, the thought of non-stop action to move, clean, prepare, establish, cultivate and nurture is so exciting, and I'm just waiting until we get the green light to move forward.
Here are a few photos snapped while visiting the property for inspections and loan walk through.