So You Want To Buy A Farm
We’ve all watched those shows where people leave their jobs and escape to an idyllic life in the country... Yeah right!
In today's blog I want to talk about what it actually takes to make that dream a reality.
I’m not going to lie, farming is hard, unrelenting physical work, for low to no profit. There are no vacations or sick days. And here is one I bet you never thought of - all that unrelenting work and mounting debt - it will take its toll on your marriage and your family life. So why even consider putting yourself through the hardship and sacrifice that this journey will demand of you?
I believe that the first step to any successful endeavor is understanding your "why". I grew up in the country and have always hated living in the city. To me the nature of cities is reflected in Tolkien's description of the fall of Isengard: Where "once it it had been green and filled with avenues, and groves of fruitful trees, watered by streams that flowed from the mountains to a lake," in the latter days of Saruman "the roads were paved with stone-flags, dark and hard...Many houses there were...so that all the open circle was overlooked by countless windows and dark doors."
Like so many people today, Saruman had "a mind of metal and wheels" and no place "for growing things" except as far as they served him. For Ian and I, our connection to the land, and our desire to live in harmony with it, rather than impose our will on it, served as the first and foremost of our reasons why.
My second "why" was as compelling for me as the first. I have been passionate about horses my entire life, but as a young married couple, horses were a luxury that we could not afford. After immigrating to Santa Barbara, California the dream of owning a horse again, much less land, moved even further beyond my reach. It was only after we moved to the East Coast that buying a pony became a (barely) feasible option. But even then it was not for myself that I embarked on this endeavor, but rather the fulfillment of a promise to our daughter.
A thousand dollar budget won't take you very far when horse shopping, but we were fortunate enough to find a scruffy 12 year old Arab/Quarter Horse gelding on a small farm in Maryland. His mother had been a rescue and he had barely any training, but he had the sweetest disposition, and after a month trial he was ours.
Owning a horse is an expensive hobby, and in Williamsburg, Virginia owning our own land remained a seemingly unreachable goal, so we boarded our pony at a local farm. Even with both of us working full time we quickly realized that Lucky was going to need to earn his keep. So after spending a couple of months training him, I built a website and listed my services online as a riding instructor. With just one pony and very limited resources Williamsburg Riding Academy was born, and within a couple of months Lucky was teaching two lessons a day 6 days a week.
It was through the successful launch of the Academy that a geneses of an idea was birthed. What if we had our own property and could not only offer lessons (on multiple horses), but horse boarding as well? After dabbling my toes in the horse business waters I had determined that there was a market for beginner lessons and a shortage of affordable boarding options. What if we filled that market niche? We might not be able to afford the monthly payments on a farm on our current income, but what if the farm could pay for itself?
That raised the next challenge in our journey - figuring out the "how".