Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Question: How to find a farm to lease or buy

A farm is a red barn, right?  the new farm I purchased in 2017
There are lots of folks who want to farm, and the question comes up pretty frequently.  Here's how this one went: 

Hi there fellow farmers! I am a little new to the farm real estate scene. I am farming in my current location, but it's really not a viable area for it. After doing a lot of research, the areas that we are interested in DO have farms for sale, but the problem is either
A) They want to sell right away (therefore the possibility of using an FSA Loan, our only option, doesn't work for them)
B) There may be someone to work with us, but I have no idea how to find those people because I don't actually know anyone in the area.
It's pretty far away, so just dropping by to get to know people would be really hard but I might be able to make a weekend out of it.
So, dear fellow farmers, what would you do if you needed to move to a different area where you didn't know anyone?
Context: Northern California looking to move to Western Oregon, Western Washington, or possibly Denver-ish if their housing market crashes

I'll be looking for a new tenant for the farm pictured above this summer (current tenant moving to montana) so I asked what sort of farming that they wanted to do.  Answer?  

Hey that pretty much fits our timeline! We're currently raising Icelandic Sheep, Kunekune pigs, various rare breed chickens. We're small right now because we're restricted but we want to grow as fast as possible, but really want to be 100% grass fed. As long as you have grass we'll be happy.

Nothing that they described really sounded like profit to me, and unfortunately profit is how you pay the rent.  So I wrote back:  

3br houses rent in this area for $1500-1800/month. utilities are another $150. The 40 acres is in grass right now, produces 500 round bales a year @600lbs each (2-3 cuttings, weather depending). the bales cost me $13 each to produce, sell for $35, so the land nets about $11k/year, or roughly $275 profit per acre per year. so if you wanted a couple of acres you'd have to pay at least that per acre to make it worth my while.
I'm talking about this to you to give you an idea of what the math with be with any farmer landlord. your enterprise would need to produce $1600+150 = 1750 per month to cover the rent, and if you wanted 3 acres, add another (275 * 3 / 12 = ) $70 a month for $1820/month.
have you thought this through to the point where you have a plan to net (after taxes) $3k a month?

Think I was too rough on them?  

Monday, February 19, 2018

Cold and freezing and hot curry

My dogs cavorting in the snow
I have a love-hate relationship with the cold.  the love part is that it's absolutely beautiful; I live in the foothills of the cascades, and there's forested hills on every side.  Snow on evergreens is really pretty; and the cold crisp air means that hard work is a little easier; and the mud turns into concrete, and walking and driving are a little easier. 

The hate part is that all of my carefully maintained automatic watering systems go out the window, and bowls and buckets become the water delivery method of choice;  I usually only have to do it a week or so a year, so it's a nuisance, but not enough of one that I'll spend the money on heated water sources.  A simple bowl or bucket that gets checked and refilled daily is hard to beat for cheap, or simplicity 

I hand-feed the nursing sows anyways; it's a formal time for me to take a look at the sow and her litter and the conditions - are they dry, do they have enough food, what's the body condition of everyone - so walking around with a hose during the rounds isn't too much trouble.  The piglets are chilly this time of year; they spend a lot of their time pressed up against moms belly and jostling for position.

When I come back in it's nice to eat something warm, and spicy, and good.  So tonight I made chicken curry. 

1 whole onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 jalapeno peppers
1 8oz can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons curry powder (sometimes i'll use 3)
1 cup cooked/canned chicken
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2" pieces
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon of fresh chopped ginger
3 cloves fresh chopped garlic

Slice the onion up and toss into a 2 quart saucepan with the olive
oil, bay leaves and the peppers.  Remove the seeds and membranes
from the peppers if you don't like your curry hot. 

  Saute at medium-high heat until the onion is translucent, and
then turn the heat down and continue to cook; watch the color
of the onions; you want them a little carmelized, about the
color of light brown sugar. 

Add the tomato sauce and refill the tomato can and add that, too.
Toss in the curry powder, the chicken and the potatoes.  Cook
at low heat until the potatoes are tender, roughly 15 minutes.   Be careful here;
you can easily burn the bottom of it with higher heat.  Go slow and stir it a few
times.  Patience will be rewarded. 

When the potatoes are cooked, add the garlic and ginger, and the peas.
Stir them in, and turn off the heat.  The heat will thaw and barely cook
the peas and they'll be perfect.  Wait a couple of minutes and serve over rice
(see picture, above)