Lessons & Advice from North Sky Farm

A herd of Dutch Belted graze underneath a rainbow at Travis and Mariah's leased property in Charlottesville, VA Travis and Mariah are two determined young farmers who have been around the block. They have experience with leasing land, assessing countless properties, and using FarmLink sites in three states. Based on this experience, they’ve gained some land access insights that are helpful to consider, whether you’re a beginning farmer or a landowner. You can read part 1 of their story here

Their main piece of advice for landowners is to learn about the real challenges and unique needs of small-scale, diversified vegetable or livestock farmers and to consider critically if they want to accommodate those. Mariah highlighted this example to emphasize how their operation, and thus their relationship with the landowner, varies from a row-crop farmer - “When you’re driving in and out of the driveway, you’re like, ‘Ok see you at 5:00 am, and then again at 2:00, and then again at 7:00 because all of our livestock are here so we check on them all the time.’” 

If you’re a beginning farmer there’s plenty of advice in this story for you too. For starters, Travis and Mariah had a calculated plan for the post-purchase phase of buying land. Purchasing a property is an expensive endeavor and often farmers aren’t left with enough money to invest in infrastructure and grow their business. Travis and Mariah’s plan for this period was to apply for grants to fund the immense start-up costs of building a dairy and if they weren’t awarded the money, their proximity to Chicago and Rockford could allow them to put their farming plans on hold and work other jobs in the interim while they saved up capital. 

Proximity to larger cities was an element of the land search that Travis and Mariah put a lot of emphasis on, which points towards another valuable lessons to be learned from them. As stated above with regards to landowners - know what you want, consider critically what your boundaries are, and what factors of a property are necessary not only for your farm business, but also for your life. Everything from infrastructure to the feeling of the land to the distance from family and friends should be considered and prioritized accordingly.