One hundred acres. It sounds wonderful. Plenty of room to play. You could stand right in the middle of it and scream your head off and no one would hear. All you see from your front porch are rolling hills dotted with fat black cows or perhaps well mannered rows of corn or soybeans. It’s a pretty picture in your mind’s eye as you contemplate life in the country from your living room in suburbia. You’re ready to hang up your coat and tie and order those coveralls from the Duluth catalogue. You’ll also enjoy the John Deere site on-line and can picture yourself on that big green tractor chugging along, straw hat on your head chewing on a piece of hay. Don’t forget the combine and the round baler, the silos and the hay barn, the fertilizer and lime, the high tensile fencing, the immunizations, the worming, the calving, bawling cows, lost sheep, dogs in the chickens… not to mention drought and flood, hired help running off and that dawn to dusk thing. Still interested?
A thousand acres and still not enough. Two hundred in corn, two hundred in soybeans, two hundred in hay and the rest in pasture and timber. They have been farming it all their lives and know every hill and dale, every spring head, every tree. They’ve had good years and bad years. Their equipment barn has a big old Allis Chalmers for the combine, a couple of older John Deeres and Fords for bush-hogging, spreading, driving posts, moving gravel and pulling the fertilizer spreader. There are implements that make you wonder. The F-350 has a ball in the bed and not a single quarter panel without a dent. Two tenant houses have families in them. The husbands help work the farm, the wives work n town. The old homeplace needs paint. It ain’t pristine.
These two scenarios can come together as one of the purest win-win situations imaginable. You have land that requires a great deal of effort to maintain properly and he needs more land to squeeze just a little more profit from squeaky tight margins. Leasing your farmland to a local farmer is an ideal solution for property owners who enjoy living a rural life but are past the point of taking on a new, full time occupation and aren’t inclined to spend another $100,000+ on farm equipment. Ten acres are plenty to keep you busy with board fencing and a barn for a couple of horses and manageable grounds around your home. If you happen to have more, and it’s good productive ground you’ll have no trouble finding a farmer who will be happy to work it for you. In return you can expect the farmer to lime and fertilize on schedule, bush-hog (mow) the pastures, share in fencing cost and maintenance and perhaps even pay a small amount per acre though this should not be the determining factor. Finding a farmer with whom you can have a comfortable, symbiotic relationship will be the most beneficial situation for you. You can enjoy looking over the rolling hills dotted with fat black cows without a care and live vicariously through your neighbor with the combine as he harvests the corn, chops the silage or makes the hay that comes off your land. You’ll gain a great respect for these farmers and learn more each season about your land while helping to maintain the lifestyle and land use that made this area so attractive to you in the first place.
Don’t shy away from property because it’s daunting in size. Owning a farm in Virginia’s Piedmont can be vastly rewarding and conservation programs including Open Space Easements, Watershed Protection and low impact farming are more apt to be put in place by well informed buyers like you. Leasing land to local farmers can help them survive in a world where land prices have no relationship with farm value and allow the property owner to enjoy land use tax benefits which dramatically decrease property taxes. There are many winners when the right match is made.
About the Author: John Ince has been specializing in Charlottesville Real Estate brokerage for nearly 30 years. Following a ten year career training, breeding and showing Arabian horses, he joined Charlottesville’s leading farm and estate firm in 1983 and developed his niche around Charlottesville horse farms and the beautiful farms and estates in the seven counties surrounding Charlottesville. John founded Charlottesville Country Properties Ltd. in 1998 and joined the team at Nest Realty as a country property expert in 2012.