Every house shopping blog and TV show reminds you not to fall in love with a property, but in this case it was impossible.
The house was set up perfectly for a farm family, with a kitchen window that overlooked the pasture and a full bath connected to the mudroom. There was an old hay barn perfect to convert into a covered facility for treating sick calves and a workshop that would become my office/studio.
We really thought it was meant to be.
Our realtor thought it was destined to be ours.
We were all wrong.
Fast forward to today and we’re still squeezing into our tiny rental house in town, hoping each new farm that gets listed might be the one.
Farm shopping is an emotional roller coaster. Unlike buying a house in a subdivision, there aren’t hundreds of farms to choose from at any given time. Folks who are unfamiliar with farm life often make comments that they assume are helpful, but are actually quite hurtful for a young farm family to hear.
I’ve compiled a few of the not so helpful comments we’ve received over the past year, along with some I’ve heard from friends who are also in our shoes.
The next time you’re making small talk with someone trying desperately to buy their first farm, I hope these phrases won’t be a part of the conversation.
1. Why can’t you just farm with your parents?
When you ask this question, you’re prying into a very personal and often emotional situation.
In my case, its pretty black and white. My parents have day jobs, the farm is not their sole income. So obviously, if it isn’t supporting their family it can’t support a second family as well.
For many young farm families, however, their parents might be drawing their full income from the farm but have to break the news to their child that there just isn’t enough to go around. For a child who has grown up expecting to be the next generation in the family farm, this can be a heartbreaking and unexpected situation to find yourself in.
You also never know if a farm is struggling to stay afloat. A few years of bad weather or a barn/equipment fire can dramatically change the financial situation of a farm, making it impossible for a child to join the business. When a family’s farm is in jeopardy its not something they want to talk about, and frankly, its none of your business.
2. If it’s taking this long, you need a new realtor.
A realtor can’t just conjure up farms for sale. Generally, farms only go on the market for 2 reasons: a farmer dies and their children have no interest in farming or the farm went bankrupt. Which leaves us in the awkward situation of waiting for people in our own community to die or fail.
In our case, we chose a realtor who has a lot of experience working with farm sales. Since the supply of available farms is so low, we didn’t want our inexperience as buyers to jeopardize the process.
Our realtor is very knowledgeable and has offered us sound advice in some touchy situations (like trying to buy from an estate). She was also very honest with us about the fact that this process could easily take 18 months – 2 years.
3. Just buy a small farm for now and buy a bigger one later.
People are often confused by the fact that we are buying our forever farm in our 20’s. Yes, the average person buys multiple houses over the course of their lifetime but for farm families its a bit different.
When a farm family buys land they invest in it. We’ll build barns, put up fences, add facilities to care for sick animals. We’ll devote a lot of time and resources to improving the soil and grasses to make the best possible food for our livestock.
That’s not the sort of things you can box up and throw in a Uhaul in a few years!
While we might buy additional acreage on down the road, the foundation of our farm will be this purchase. God willing, it will be ours forever.
4. Have you asked [Big Farmer in your Community] if he’d sell some land to you?
In short, no. That’s just not how its done.
You just don’t ask someone to sell off a portion of their livelihood, let alone a farmer whose family has likely been farming that land for multiple generations.
Please for the love of all things holy, NEVER go ask some big farmer in your community to sell land to your nephew/cousin/friend who is trying to buy a farm.
Its incredibly rude and instead of helping your loved one, you’ve now put them in a very awkward situation with someone who they will likely need to have a good relationship with since the farming community is such a tight knit one.
5. You’re being too picky.
This one annoys me most of all. Assuming that because we are young we’re delusional and holding out for the holy grail of farms/houses is just insulting.
When someone shops for a house in a subdivision, their list of “musts” gets to include things like an attached garage or a master suite.
When you’re shopping for a farm, it goes a little more like this: “A minimum of X acres. A house with 3 bedrooms.” The end.
Available farms are so few and far between that we simply can’t put additional parameters on the search. The land becomes almost the only priority. We enter every house not to see if its the perfect one but to evaluate if we can make it work until we can afford to renovate it, since the majority of our budget will be invested in land.
So what should you say?
No one is asking you to fix the situation so don’t bother trying. Your friend is stuck in what probably feels like the longest wait of their life, all they need is your support along the way.
“You guys will be great farmers, the right place will come along before you know it.”
“I’m sorry this is taking so long, I know you’re eager to start farming.”
“I’ll keep an eye out and let you know if I hear of anything available.”
Keep it short and sweet. Show your support and let them know that you believe it will all work out, because there are some days that they need to be reminded that it will.
We have been so blessed to have families and friends who check in often to see how the search is going and remind us that God already knows every acre He will be entrusting us with, He just hasn’t led us to them yet.
We have faith that He’s teaching us something important during this waiting game. While I won’t pretend its fun, I know it will be worth it.