Looking for land for farming? Whether for micro eco-farming or larger rural property enterprises, here we’ll cover numerous sources for finding farming land in the area of your dreams, for either purchasing or leasing. Plus, rare but legitimate free or very low-cost farming land as well as supposed “free land” scams to watch out for.
Farmlink - a unique opportunity for finding farmland and rural property:
Check out your state's Farmlink program (search "farmlink" & "your
state" or go directly to farmlink.net. Farmlink keeps track of generational farmers and ranchers who
are ready to pass their farms on to the next generation of new farmers
who don't have land. Farmland owners either don't have children to pass it on
to, or their children aren't interested in farming and the farmers want
to keep their land as farmland. NOTE: There's another worthy program that uses the Farmlink name, which distributes surplus farm produce. Be sure you find the correct one if looking for land or if you have land needing a farmer.
how Mary Embleton of the Washington State Farmlink describes the
program, "We don't carry out transactions, just help do the linking.
Many of the properties enrolled in our program are for lease or other
type of tenure arrangement. We have worked with some realtors in the
past that were representing farm properties. We have also had farmland
owners looking to sell to aspiring farmers. They all take care of their
own transactions. We do provide a variety of lease templates and are
available to help foster those relationships."
Regularly check the farmers' resource page of the Center for Rural Affairs. They keep up on programs across the USA and Canada that help beginning farmers in various ways including finding land. There are many little known and barely visible local and regional programs that link new farmers with land, so be sure to dig deep... don't assume the link for your specific state or province will be on the front page. Look through and click on what seems to describe the overall bigger picture, then look thoroughly through where that takes you and click again, then maybe again, until it narrows down to your location.
Watch out for very low-cost or free rural property scams that ask you to pay a fee for their “lists:” The USA really did once have a Homestead Act. U.S. citizens could secure up to 160 acres of open land if it was continuously lived on and cultivated for five consecutive years.
The homesteader had the option to buy the land after six months from the government for $1.25 per acre. After a successful five-year residency and a $15 filing fee, the homesteader received clear title to the land. The Homestead Act was finally repealed in 1976 except for Alaska (1986). Don't pay for publications that will tell you about this "secret." It's over. And it was never a secret.
Shared Earth at sharedearth.com connects landowners with farmers and gardeners. You can search specific areas.
Legitimate free or almost free rural property does exist periodically: Because of the many 'free land' scams, you'll find comments across the net that understandably state there is no free property. But a handful of USA small towns and rural counties have started programs offering free or almost free rural property in an effort to reverse rural depopulation.
They try to entice people to relocate to rural properties in a
variety of ways. While some only offer rural lots, which can be fine for very small micro eco-farming, others offer rural acreage which may be usable
for more expanded small scale farming ventures. While there are legitimate sources, there is still a lot of fine print to look over and thoughtful decisions to make regarding if these locations can meet your needs and visa versa. In some cases, for instance, a house of a certain minimum size (say, 1200 square feet for instance) must be built. No tents or tiny homes. These offerings can come and go. So search for free US small town and rural land in the current year you're looking, and be vigilant of older listings or scams. You should not have to pay for such listings.
And beware of purchasing "listings" of foreclosures: That tragic situation of people losing their homes to foreclosure is legitimate, and those properties may go up for sale at discounts. But there's a competitive process that trained real estate investors go through to purchase the foreclosing property (bidding at a certain time and location, having cash on hand…). There are also many high priced real estate courses that focus on foreclosures. We've checked a few out ourselves and found that while you will always learn "something," many operate on a system to get you excited about quick cheap foreclosure purchases, with hidden plans to get you to invest more and more money on more and more real estate courses and mentoring -- which is how they make their money.
Finding acreage or a farm for sale via real estate listings: Two well-known places to find rural property or farms for sale are LandHub.com and Landandfarm.com. The publications AcresUSA and Mother Earth News sometimes have listings in their classifieds.
Relocate and rent first:
If you know you want to move to a specific new location and eventually
own a farm, long-time farmers often caution new farmers about rushing
into buying land in new territory and acquiring debt right off. Some
suggest you first just relocate and rent, and seek a position on another
farm while you get to know the location better, including the geography, microclimates, water table levels, etc. That's how we found our own farmland. We took drives, asked questions, and got to know the locals for a couple of years and gained a lot of knowledge we couldn't have if we'd purchased as outsiders. Once there, you can plug into inside information. Start
looking through local classifieds, local Craigslist, local farm store
and cooperative extension bulletin boards for acreage or farmland for sale, and ask around as you get to know and trust people.
Land trusts, private estates, land-owning organizations: One of the micro goat dairy owners profiled on the Micro Eco-Farming site owned just 3/4 of a rural acre which included their home and non-farmed front yard. They ended up leasing another half acre right next door from an absent wealthy land owner who wanted to hold onto the property, but wasn't using it for farming. The dairy owner sealed this deal on her own by letting the landowner know how well her goats would build up the fertility of the landower's half acre.
This was a private deal that worked out from living in the area and knowing what to ask for.
But many counties also have farmland trusts where rural property owners secure their land because they don't want it to ever be developed, but it might be available for farming. To see if any trusts have farmland leads in your area, search "farmland trust" (or "rural land trust," "rural acreage trust," etc.) and "your county."
is also the possibility of stewarding a piece of land on schools,
campgrounds, or for landowners who only show up on their land for the
occasional holiday. This would either be a lease situation or a possible
trade: You providing growing organic fertility for the land and a
working farm for students, camp attendees, or the landowners' grandkids. But don't enter an agreement too casually. Both should be comfortable with liability responsibility on both sides, with everything in writing with the help of good attorneys. As landowners, we've racked up lists of issues with people using our land for their farming. Including sending "farmhands" we'd never met to work our land, smoldering cigarettes dropped on the parched August ground during wildfire season, and promises to repair ruts in the ground from their tractors never kept.
Finding urban farmland:
Urban farmers can also look into stewarding land from schools,
churches, and so forth. Besides that, the two main ways urban and
backyard farmers find farmland beyond their own property are to either
work with the city government on securing vacant lots, or to do
yard-share programs where the urban farmers farm the yards of various
local residents, giving them a percentage of the produce while they get
the rest to sell as an urban farm business. Finding such farmland would be a local endeavor, but growers can first study two successful models. The Capital Roots in New York began in 1975 and oversees nearly
50 urban gardens. Search for their story.