If the first hurdle toward starting your farm in the city means finding the best property or small farm, then this checklist is for you! While the process of searching for your urban farm can definitely be exciting, there are several important steps that will help you be sure you have found the best property.

The key to a smooth real estate transaction means finding a Realtor who understands the challenges and hazards you could encounter when your goal is to start an urban farm. You need someone with the experience to guide you to the best properties that will allow you to achieve your food production goals and you need someone who can address the considerations on this list.

Step 1. Visit The Property

Browsing online for your new property is the best way to begin looking, however photos on home search websites do not usually provide a clear picture of what a property actually looks like. When you see some that look interesting, it’s time to schedule a visit to see them with your Realtor. Once you arrive, you’ll want to ensure the property will allow you to achieve your long term vision.  Are there signs of trash or does the property appear clean? Old 55-gallon barrels could mean trouble. Ensure you know where all the property boundaries are. You can have a survey conducted during the contract process if there are not clear markings. Be aware of any easements on the property and how they could limit the useable areas. Utility companies own these in order to access water lines or power lines. It is also important to know what the property is zoned for. The difference between residential or farming use will allow you to legally pursue your food production goals.Get our monthly newsletter to stay up to date on all the urban farming news, tips and events in the Nashville area!S

Step 2. Assess the Terrain

The lay of the land is probably the most important factor that will affect your decision to buy or pass on the property. What is the elevation above rivers and streams? Is the land flat or hilly? Does it drain well or is there standing water? Is the soil sandy, rocky or does it appear fertile? Read The Key to High Production to discover how to build the best soil. What is the orientation of the sun in comparison to the areas where you can grow food? Are there areas that will be unproductive because they are wooded or overgrown? Just because a property is zoned for your intended use, there could be thousands of dollars of work to get up and running. Also, if it seems like a really good deal,  the reason could be due to unseen conditions on the property.

Step 3. Learn How The Property Was Used

If you are purchasing a residential home, keep in mind that pesticides are used by many people and you should have the soil tested to see what it contains. Homes built before 1978 could have used lead paint which might be in the soil surrounding the home. If you are purchasing land that was farmed, what crops were grown and what methods of agriculture were used? Again, soil testing is recommended for any property you intend to purchase. If you want to raise livestock, will you need to replant the fields?

4. Check The Condition of the Home and Other Structures on the Property

When buying any property, you need to make sure the structures are sound for your own living needs. You will be able to have inspections done after contracting the property, but major issues are apparent most of the time. Make sure to look at the condition of  fences, sheds, barns and other buildings on the property. Will they allow you to keep the type of animals you want, or will they need immediate repairs? It’s important to consider all these things while visiting the property so you can realistically calculate the cost and amount of work you will need to do before you can begin farming.

Step 5. Keep Your Goals In Mind

Remember, the first step to starting your urban farm is setting clear, realistic and long term goals for what you want to raise and grow. It’s also important to set a budget for your startup costs. Even though a property seems like a perfect fit, if the cost of materials and labor are more than you have you might have to pass. After you have closely considered the previous 4 steps and you feel confident that a property aligns with them and your goals, it’s time to make an offer!


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