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In North Carolina, there are many ways that farm seekers can find farmland to purchase or lease. In addition to letting family and friends know you are seriously looking, please consider the resources below.
NC FarmLink: Sign up for a free account and create your own profile that describes your ideal farm. Be sure to select only the counties you would seriously consider.
Ag Review: Offers NC residents a free listing in the ‘Farmland Wanted’. Also offers ‘Farmland For Sale’, section.
Online Farmland Listings: Landwatch, Farmflip, Landandfarm . Other search engines like Zillow and Realtor are also available. ASAP ‘From Here’ Classifieds also have a section for land. 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. Proxibid (Category=Real Estate; State=North Carolina), Countryboys, Ironhorse, Rich & Rich, (share others and we will consider listing here…)
Online GIS Aerial photography: Visit the online Geographic Information System (GIS) resources in the counties you are exploring. From the ‘online mapping’ you can access the most recent aerial photography to reveal open ag lands and their current owners. If a drive by visit reveals the land is idle, consider contacting the owner of record. We strongly advise that you do not trespass on private property without owners permission.
Social Media: Craigslist, Facebook, etc.
Listservs: Growing Small Farms is an example of a listserv that sometimes offers information about available farmland.
Local County Ag Agencies, Stores, and Service Providers: Check the bulletin boards at the local farm stores, service providers, and federal, state, and county ag agencies.
Personal Network: 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.
These two handy resources can be printed out to help evaluate available options for your future farm. Soil productivity and water availability are very important. Infrastructure such as barns, greenhouses, farmhouse, storage facilities, post harvest prep areas, walk in coolers. buried irrigation or livestock water pipe, and fencing are also important considerations. Since water management on farmland is important, consider walking the land after a rainfall to see how topography and soil type affect how water drains from different areas on the farm.
While it is possible that forested land could be converted to productive cropland, the current land use is a strong indication of the suitability of the land for farming or forestry. Aerial photos are available through Google Maps and through respective county online GIS resources. Consider the handy Soil Web App offered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and put it on your mobile device to find info on the soil wherever you are at any given time.
You can get great insight into the suitability of any farmland by using Google Earth Pro after you download it to your desktop. After searching for the location of a tract of farmland using the address, click on the ‘sun’ icon above the image to see the shadows throughout the day. This is especially useful for evaluating land in valleys and the mountains of foothills region of NC. Also consider looking at historical use of the land by clicking on the historical imagery icon just to the left of the ‘sun’ icon. Click the ‘wrench’ to change the date of the aerial image shown. While the digital imagery may only be available back to 1985, check with your local Soil & Water Conservation District office for older imagery and click a photo with your smartphone so you can refer to it as you develop your farm.
Some of the tips above are also noted in this informative video on the Greenshine Farmers Youtube channel. Note our website has been updated since this video was made so it looks a bit different now.