Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

where to buy land to set up my homestead?

I've come to the Barbara-Kingsolver-conclusion that living and farming in Tucson, AZ is not sustainable. And it's only going to get hotter. I'll be in Tucson for the rest of the month and so will take best advantage of this time by interviewing all of the local Urban Agriculture folks to learn from them.

In moving on, I'm wondering how to go about finding a place to live.

I've started a short list:
+ free flowing water. well augmented by rain water harvesting? river (as in Missoula, MT)?
+ a community in which to sell my produce. a 100 mile foodshed is fine, but I'dl like to have a smaller circle.
+ my ideal would be to live in a climate that would support figs and olives, but i realize that this may not be possible if i throw in "free flowing water" as requirement number one.

What I have:
+ education and practical experience in organic farming/gardening in desert and temperate regions

How do I go about finding such a place? I've got a map and a 40mpg Honda Fit. What next?

Views: 387

Comment by Randy Hughes on October 11, 2010 at 9:10pm
sounds like you have a dream as well...that is the most important thing to have...I live in Ark. at the moment..but plan to move to the great NW...Washinton..maybe Oregon...good climates and good ground...the cost of the land is a bit much however.
Ar. and Mo. have some pretty good deals on land...good luck and keep following that dream
Comment by marie on October 11, 2010 at 9:42pm
thanks, Randy. thing is, i've had this dream for over 10 years now. the original plan was an olive orchard in Spain + rammed earth workshops and dry farming apprenticeships. spain is out of the equation as is the extreme desert. i do need to watch the cost of land. i also think that washington and oregon may be too wet for my soul. then again, there is a winter reprise during which i could escape back to the desert. this is a part of my new plan; how/where to spend the winter (not an issue farming in the desert where it's year-round plant/harvest).

does anyone know of a good way to find land? in spain, i just drove around. there must be an easier (online?) way.
Comment by Randy Hughes on October 12, 2010 at 10:17am
Saw a program on Olive orchards in California...may be and option....not Spain but could be and option.
Comment by Rachel Hoff on October 12, 2010 at 10:48am
I would say Northern Coastal California - Mendocino or Northern Sonoma County. More water than the more southern areas and you can easily grow olives and figs - they are everywhere around here. It doesn't snow - wet winters and drier summers. The good thing about olives and figs is that they are Mediterranean plants and don't require a lot of supplemental summer irrigation once established.
Comment by Larry Snyder on October 12, 2010 at 10:57am
Most of the areas suitable for olives & figs are desert like areas with imported water(calif). The eastern portions of Wash. & Oregon are desert like. Maybe there is a portion of those states where water & climate would be a good compromise.
Comment by James O'Toole on October 15, 2010 at 4:48pm
My neighbor grew figs in North NJ (believe it or not), very cold in the north east during the winter, maybe south east (Barbara Kingsolver is in the blue ridge, south west VA I believe). The climate this year has been stange though, much snow in the south east (unusual), blazing hot in the north east and cool this summer in CA. Northern CA may be the spot, probibly not cheap land though, good luck to you...
Comment by Asia Mahon on October 21, 2010 at 12:25pm
You may want to look at the Southern Appalachian Mountains for figs, olives and free flowing water. Check out Asheville NC and the surrounding area. go to http://www.asapconnections.org/ to see our local food shed. It is beautiful here.
Comment by marie on January 11, 2011 at 4:13pm
I did it; I just moved to Bend, OR as a base to start my land search in eastern OR. Sure is cold up here! Thanks all for your suggestions. OR has amazing resources for small, sustainable farms.
Comment by Cornelia on January 11, 2011 at 4:46pm
Woohooo~ Marie! Congratulations! Please keep us apprised of your continuing adventures and victories! Also be sure to check out the OR resources on Farm Aid's Farm Resource Network: http://www.farmaid.org/FRN
Comment by marie on March 9, 2011 at 4:37pm

I left my trusty Arizona the 2nd of January and made a beeline for Bend, OR. I'm just finishing up the Growing Farms workshop series (I highly recommend it if you can find one in your area. Contact your local extension office) and a local weekly gardening series offered by the town. While I have a lot of education and experience in small-scale farming, I felt like I needed a refresher. Both series have introduced me to local farmers with lectures and farm tours.


I'm leaving town on Friday because I'm frustrated by the land use laws in OR. I haven't crossed OR off my list (organic farmers geared toward the foodshed market are sorely needed in central OR), but I want to see what else is out there and how they all compare. Onwards to MT, UT and NV and possibly Idaho. My goal is to work on farms for two weeks that are in foodsheds that I have interest in. 


Things I've learned:

1. Know what you're looking for and what you want to avoid. That includes water access/quality, land size, growing season length.

2. Know the state and county land use laws and the processes to get around them. I'm leaving OR for now because I perceive the land laws to be too restrictive about conducting business of any kind on designated farm land. I did just learn two days ago that there are ways to get around the laws.  

3. Draw a foodshed circle on a map. Learn marketing opportunities within the foodshed. Be realistic on what opportunities you can create while farming.

4. Attend all land and farm and foodie meetings you can get your hands on. In a short amount of time, I was in the know about local food and land issues.  

5. Write a business plan and stick to one method of collecting all types of information (farm tour notes, online resources, book notes). I'm using google docs so others have access to documents.

 6. Raid the local library and read stacks of books on farming, gardening, sustainability, etc.

Eliot Coleman rocks.

Making your Small Farm Profitable (Ron Macher), You Can Farm (Joel Salatin) and  The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook

RESOURCES that I will seek out wherever I look for land:

Growing Farms or some other program offered by extension


local Slow Food groups

restaurants sourcing local foods

co-op grocery stores who buy local first


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