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How to Find and Purchase Farmland: A Beginner's Guide

Do you dream of owning a piece of farmland but feel overwhelmed by the process? Don't worry, you're not alone. Many aspiring farmers face the same challenges when it comes to finding and buying the...

Do you dream of owning a piece of farmland but feel overwhelmed by the process? Don't worry, you're not alone. Many aspiring farmers face the same challenges when it comes to finding and buying the perfect plot of land. In this article, we'll provide you with some practical tips and insights to help you navigate this exciting journey.

Where to Start Looking for Land

Before diving into the search for farmland, it's essential to do your homework. Start by researching the neighborhood and land you're interested in to ensure it aligns with your farming goals. Consider the type of farming you want to pursue and ensure that the area can support it.

One crucial factor to consider is off-farm income. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, most new farmers rely on off-farm income to sustain themselves. If this applies to you, it might be wise to prioritize finding a job first and then look for land in the vicinity.

Additionally, if you plan on selling your farm products, assess the potential customer base in the area. Look for nearby cities with farmers markets or community-supported agriculture programs where you can sell your goods.

To narrow down your search area, create two circles on a map. One circle should encompass the location of your off-farm job and the maximum commuting distance you're willing to endure. The other circle should represent your potential customer base and the maximum distance you're willing to travel to sell your products. The overlapping area between the two circles is where you should focus your search for land.

Creating a Farm Marketing Plan

A successful farm enterprise requires a solid marketing plan. Familiarize yourself with resources like Growing for Market and the book Market Farming Success by Lynn Byczynski. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NSAIS) is another valuable resource, offering a wealth of information on various farming topics and marketing options.

To ensure you have access to necessary support services, such as veterinarians or organic feed suppliers, reach out to other farmers in the area. Local farmers' markets are a great place to start networking and gathering information. You can also consult the local Yellow Pages or search online for relevant services.

Evaluating Farmland

Once you have identified potential properties, it's time to evaluate them before making a purchase. Here are some crucial aspects to consider:


Clean and sufficient water is vital for both your family and your farm. Consult your state's Department of Health or Department of Natural Resources to learn about water quality standards and construction requirements. These agencies can guide you to water testing labs, where you can assess the quality of the water source on the property.


The type of soil plays a crucial role in determining whether the land is suitable for farming. The USDA and Natural Resources Conservation Service offer a National Cooperative Soil Survey, which provides detailed soil maps and descriptions. Look for information on topsoil depth, drainage, slope, and the crops that thrive in that particular soil type.

Consider conducting a soil test to assess the nutrient content of the soil. You can find soil-testing labs in your area through online searches or by contacting your local extension agent. If the test reveals major deficiencies, consult a soil fertility specialist for guidance.

Buildings, Utilities, and Support Services

Inspect the condition of buildings, fences, and utilities on the property. It's wise to seek professional help or advice if you are unsure about the soundness of any structures. American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) offers a directory of inspectors who can help you assess the property's condition.

Additionally, take a close look at the neighborhood. Spend time in the area, subscribe to local papers, and talk to people to gather information about recent or pending land use changes. You can also visit county offices to learn about land use ordinances and current land uses, which may impact your farming plans.

How to Buy Farmland

When it comes to financing the purchase of farmland, several options are available:

Traditional Lenders

Explore borrowing money from traditional lenders such as banks or credit unions. To increase your chances of qualifying for a loan, demonstrate that you're a reliable borrower. The Land Stewardship Project and the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service offer guidance on financing sustainable agriculture.

Government Programs

Several grant and loan programs are specifically designed to assist new farmers in purchasing land. These programs are administered through agencies like the Farm Credit Administration, the Farm Service Agency, and USDA Rural Development. Look into their offerings and see if you qualify.

Creative Alternatives

If traditional financing routes aren't viable options, consider thinking outside the box:

  • Seek farm internships to gain valuable experience and connections within the farming community.
  • Enroll in classes on sustainable farming to enhance your knowledge and skills.
  • Explore foreclosed properties that may be available at discounted prices. Be sure to understand the intricacies of purchasing foreclosed land before proceeding.
  • Consider leasing or renting land if buying is not currently feasible. Check online platforms or reach out directly to landowners to find potential opportunities.
  • Investigate group purchases where multiple beginning farmers pool their resources to buy collectively.

No matter your circumstances, perseverance is key. Keep searching, and you'll find the right farm waiting for you.

Rural Property Listing Resources

Here are some reliable resources to help you find rural properties for sale:

  • Rural Property Lands Connector
  • United Country Real Estate
  • Rural Property Finder

Remember, finding the perfect farmland may take time, but with patience and the right approach, you'll soon be on your way to realizing your farming dreams.

[NSAIS]: National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service [ASHI]: American Society of Home Inspectors