Buying a Farm
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As you begin your quest to follow your passion for farming, consider the items below. (Finding Farmland and is an additional resource you might find beneficial.)
1. WHY do you want to buy a farm? Are you interested in farming as your livelihood or just as a lifestyle? Might it be better for your farm enterprise to lease farmland instead of purchasing farmland? Though it might be a bit dated, this easy to read resource from ATTRA entitled Finding Land to Farm: Six Ways to Secure Farmland offers a quick overview.
2. WHERE do you want to buy a farm? What counties and zip codes offer you the location where you want to farm to be close to family, work, or markets?
3. HOW MANY ACRES do you want to purchase? This depends on whether you want a small lifestyle ‘farmette’ for family use only, a direct to consumer vegetable or flower farm, a grass based cattle farm, or a wholesale or commodity oriented row crop farm.
4. WHAT ARE YOUR FINANCIAL RESOURCES? What you could pay for a mortgage payment for the next 15 to 30 years! Remember that buying the land is only part of your farming dream and farm improvements such as a farmhouse, barns, and other infrastructure must also be considered as you budget your farming operation.
Recent data from USDA indicated average price for farmland in 2022 was $5,150, with individual values for Cropland at $4,700 and Pastureland at $5,200. In general smaller parcels have higher values per acre and larger parcels have lower values per acre. Parcels with improvements such as a home, barns, and other infrastructure can add greatly to a price per acre calculation.
Locating Farmland for Sale
Ag Review Offers NC residents a free listing in the ‘Farmland Wanted’. Also offers ‘Farmland For Sale’, section.
Auctions can also be a way to purchase a farm, but be sure to assess the property and your financial situation in advance of auction day. Consider checking into Proxibid (Category=Real Estate; State=North Carolina), Countryboys, Ironhorse, Rich & Rich, and Johnson Properties (share others and we will consider listing here). Remember to get include the commission charged by the auctioneer and if appropriate, visit with your mortgage provider before you place a bid.
Social Media sites such as Craigslist, Facebook, etc.
Listservs like Growing Small Farms can sometimes offers information about available farmland.
Local County Ag Agencies, Stores, and Service Providers often have bulletin boards and farm related service providers, as well as federal, state, and county ag agencies might also have leads on farmalnd in their service area.
Personal Network can extend your reach so let your friends and family know of your search. Consider your social and work networks also including faith, civic, and recreation groups you may be a part of.
Purchasing & Financing Options
‘Fee simple’ is the most common method of purchase that usually involves full payment to the seller at ‘closing’, when legal documents are signed and transfer is official. Usually, the buyer also signs documents on a 10, 15, or 30 year mortgage. Other mechanisms involved with purchasing can be Lease to Purchase, Option to Purchase, and Right of First Refusal.
Mortgages are available from a variety of sources, but the Farm Credit of North Carolina network regularly works with new and transitioning farmers. The USDA Farm Services Agency offers microloans that can be used towards a down payment for purchasing farmland; Applicants must have at least 3 years of farm experience, though 1 years of experience can be substituted by 16 semester hours post-secondary agriculture education, significant management experience, or military leadership or management experience.
Other innovative farm financing options may become available to North Carolina Farm Seekers in the future, including Dirt Capital, Iroquois Valley, Mad Agriculture Perennial Fund, and Steward. In addition, you can consider supporting efforts to establish a North Carolina Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) focused on enhancing new and transitioning farmers similar to the one operated by California Farmlink.
The National Young Farmers Coalition created a Finding Farmland Calculator that can help farm seekers explore methods to finance their farm purchase. Be sure to check out the videos series on this tool, beginning with Finding Farmland Calculator Walkthrough: Introduction.