This afternoon I went on my first real farm tour - with a real estate and everything. I had seen this gentleman's farm in a free showcase catalog I picked up at the bank and couldn't stop thinking about it. I inquired about the property over the internet and an hour later I was on the phone with a real estate agent, making an appointment to view the property just a few short hours later. It's probably for the best that it happened so quickly, before I could talk myself out of it.
Touring the property was certainly a good exercise in farm searching. Rather than just driving by or wondering about different things, the real estate agent was able to knowledgeably answer all of our questions and we were able to really explore. The house is a 1948 saltbox design, but was beautifully maintained with mostly updated features (roof, plumbing, paint, etc). Hardwood floors, two closets in EVERY room, a screened in sun porch, immaculate basement, and enough windows to be able to see the entire farm at all times - I was pretty impressed.
The farm also had a beautiful chicken coop (plenty of room for all of my girls!), a three-stall horse barn with a large hay loft that even had a heated tack room (perfect for brooding chicks!), a fenced two-acre pasture that looked very well maintained, an old apple orchard (though most of the trees seemed dead, they could easily be replaced), and a very large workshop.
The workshop was originally designed for boat building, but instantly seemed like the perfect space for a classroom - for a cooking school or other educational programs. It was a building full of potential.
The location of the farm seemed great as well - about 35 minutes from my parents house, close to town, and in a beautiful residential neighborhood that included a few other small farms. The property was 6 level acres, a size that I feel I could easily maintain by myself but full of potential. Though I'd never visited Windham before, it seemed like a well maintained town worth researching.
The only challenge, of course, was the price. While the property is listed under my "budget" at $299,000, I'm still a little unsure about my budget. It's based solely on what I could afford as a down payment, but that would leave me with $0 in savings and monthly payments that are probably too large to maintain by myself until I really have solid footing. At 6 acres I worry that I would be setting up more of a large "homestead" rather than a "farm" (in other words, providing the food needs for myself and my family, with little excess to sell). Income on the farm would need to come through educational programming, which I would love to do, but would take longer to get established. But, looking briefly at other properties in this part of the state, this gentleman's farm certainly seemed like great value.
All in all, I have lots of thinking to do! It was exciting to visit a property that I could "potentially" afford that is in perfect condition and essentially ready to go (till the garden, brood the chicks, buy a few piglets and I'm golden!). It's also clear that I'm still at the beginning of my search and that I can't be allured by the simple path that would give me the infrastructure I would need to start my future, but without a reasonable cushion to start my business.
I'm looking forward to hearing back from the real estate agent tomorrow with more potential properties perhaps a little closer to my parents. And I'm still researching and pursuing the process of leasing land. Putting my eggs in many baskets, if you will, which is certainly a lot harder to keep track of.