Becoming a Farmer (Part 5 of 7): “Dude, Where’s My Farm?

“There is no there there.”Gertrude Stein, Author

“Where” your farm business is located is a very important question. It matters in many ways. Like the Ashton Kutcher movie, “Dude, Where’s My Car?”, you don’t want the location of your farm to be a mystery.

On the map!





A cidery I worked with (and frequented… um, for research purposes only) was not listed accurately on Google maps. It took them years to get the address added. They gave directions on the phone ad nauseum. They posted signs on surrounding gravel roads. Their annoyed neighbors posted signs reminding trespassers of the Second Amendment.

The same couple first started with a community-supported agriculture (CSA) operation, where customers purchase a weekly/monthly subscription to obtain produce. Lots of folks said they were interested. but most, who would pay what they needed to have, were 60 miles away, in the nearest metro area. After a year of trying, they couldn’t add enough subscribers because of the inconvenient distance. The family decided to gather orders and then deliver to three or four locations in the city, where customers could pick up the deliveries. Problem solved, right?

Not so fast, my friend. Now the wife was spending a day each week on the road and not at home on her farm. That caused upset. The farm was an attempt to avoid the commute! Time to scrap the CSA concept? No, time to pivot again.

The family had an apple orchard, and the neighbors did, as well. So, they added a cidery and an entertainment venue. Now customers could come once per month for music, a food truck, pick up their CSA box and, oh, yeah, add a few four-packs of artisan cider. After a few ciders, customers might decide they needed to buy some eggs, honey, and whatnot… maybe even an old box with a hole in it.

Suddenly their farm became a “there.” A destination. But, before you build a cidery, winery or any venue that hosts the public, ask yourself if you like to work weekends, deal with tipsy folks, and have people wander over to your backyard and nap on your favorite chaise lounge.

Turning (farming) romance into reality, since 2015.

If you plan to host the public, then access via a hard-surface road (or roads) might be important, with parking. Maybe you’ll need to address issues with sound, dust, traffic and odor. Suddenly, the neighbors have an opinion. While Florida has a right-to-farm law that provides protection, we also have a lot of places where the infamous “snake on a flag” flies, warning you to watch where you tread.

farmland and crops roll up to an urban skyline, with a bright-blue sky in the background. [credit:, Stilfee]
An “ideal” setting for ag land? It’s near major markets, but might come with other issues. [CREDIT:, Stilfee]

Also, consider that being closer to your market might mean land is at least twice the cost, only half the needed size, not readily available, or not zoned to do what you want. You might need to look for some “in-between” sweet spot or change your business model to include buying a truck or trailer. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. I used to meet my beef customers in a Home Depot parking lot that was about midway between us.


On the road again!

How close are you to the services you need? Where do you need to go to get parts for your baler? How far do you have to haul the tractor to get to a qualified mechanic? When it comes time to process your meat animals, how many miles is it to the processor?

When I started with poultry, we processed our own, at 20 birds each time. Then the volume grew to 65 and the frequency increased. The “who” that was doing the work squawked as loud as the poultry. We found a custom option. I had to drive 65 miles with 65 birds, drop them off, and then turn around 2-3 days later to make the return trip with 10-12 coolers. That added cost, time and stress. Eventually, I scaled back and found a family within 8 miles that could do a smaller number but at a higher cost. Tradeoffs: plan to make them.

Location matters because of:

  • convenience for customers
  • cost of land
  • land zoned for your intended use
  • quality of life for you and family
  • availability of more land and flexibility of use
  • prices you can charge
  • access for you if you don”t live there
  • proximity to ag services you need
  • interactions with neighbors

Who affects where!

a dirt lane rolls up to a small, aged farm home, with a horse in a neighboring, fenced-in field. [credit:, mateus campos felipe]
You’re not going to find Oliver and Lisa Douglas here (think “Green Acres”), but it might be an ideal setting for you, your family and your ag operation. [CREDIT:, Mateus Campos Felipe]

Don’t forget to factor in the needs of the “who” when figuring out your “where.” As example, my wife is an educator and taught online. She needed high-speed internet to make it work, and fumed about how she instead was saddled with our (much-slower) satellite internet and how it added time and frustration to her job. She said it was either her or the farm. After I toyed with a little bit of “Boy, I’m going to miss her” humorous imaginings, we jettisoned the farm from our lives, never to be discussed again. Slight whimpering and teary eyes ensue (for me).

The “who” will likely need easy access to jobs, schools, friends, shopping, and more. These might not have a lot to do with the farm directly but everything to do with LIFE on the farm and family bliss.

Being creative about your dream place!

It’s not likely you’ll find that perfect spot right out of the gate. But, trade-offs and paperwork to get grants and a dab of creativity might get you close to where you want to be. It did for me… mostly.

First, I bought a separate 7-acre property where my dream house was located, and then bought the 76-acre farm next door. But, there was no electricity or running water at the farm building site. I was able to secure an U.S. Department of Agriculture EQIP grant (through the Natural Resources Conservation Service) to partially fund running water lines from the deep well at my personal residence out to the buildings, gardens and every livestock paddock.

I also traded a quarter of beef for a 10,000-watt generator to run drills, a compressor and my block heater in the winter. I never did spend the $5,000 to run electricity to the building site. Never really missed it.

When is… well, when?

Who, what, why, how and where…we’re almost there. If you’ve kept up and done your research up till now, you might legitimately be ready for the “when.” In our next installment, we will discuss the timeline for making your farming dream into a reality.

Until then, has anybody seen my car?


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Posted: December 7, 2023

Category: Agribusiness, Agriculture, Farm Management
Tags: Ag, Agriculture, BecomingAFarmer, Business, Farm, Farm School, Grower, Pgm_Ag, Ranch, Small Farm, Small Farming

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