The first in a three part series of articles that will give you some insight as to why we chose this particular piece of property.
When chronicling any endeavor or adventure it’s always best to start at the beginning. This certainly holds true when it comes to establishing a sustainable farm in ten acres of heavily wooded Florida pine scrub. Property hunting certainly calls for some selection criteria. It also demands some soul-searching, vision and a very good sense of humor. The property hunt and how we finally settled on purchasing the land we did is as good a starting point as any. Here’s what made our latest purchase the right place at the right time.
Access is a major concern for anyone seriously hunting for a piece of property to farm or homestead. On our criteria list it was a primary concern. If you’re going to dedicate yourself to developing a homestead or farm on a scratch piece of land, being able to get to it as easily as possible is critical. Anyone that has ever shopped for any real estate knows the saying “location, location, location”; well, when it came to finding the site to build our vision the saying morphed to “access, access, access”. Access is such a determining factor that it can not only determine the property’s success or failure, but can alter the final geography of the purchase. After all, what good is that majestic mountain overlook or secluded bend on that river if your first purchase has to be new vehicles and timing your travel according to the latest weather report?
That example may sound extreme, but it’s closer to reality than most people care to think. In this day and age of suburban sprawl, deed restricted communities and farmland scarcity, finding accessible land that’s affordable can be difficult. Also, when considering a potential property’s access there’s an amount of focus and leveling with yourself that has to occur. Yeah, that secluded cabin dream (delusion) may be really beautiful in the mind’s eye, but can you escape it in the face of a wildfire or hurricane? Better yet, can your invited guests easily and comfortably find you?
Tropical storms that blossom into hurricanes with tidal surges are a reality in our subtropical area. Happy to say that our property actually has some elevation (rare in coastal Florida) and is located outside the tidal surge evacuation zones. That’s a huge factor when you consider livestock and other agricultural assets that cannot be moved easily for evacuation.
Another critical access issue worth major consideration was that many lesser residential roads throughout the county are maintained by the individual property owners along those roads. Paved roads that lead past mailboxes at the end of secluded drives aren’t a reality for many county residents in the area. Some locals will tell you, “If you want that, go find yourself a deed restricted community”. Potholes and washouts are a reality and a major concern for many properties we visited. We visited properties that had swaths of spare carpet laying alongside the road not as trash, but as a community service for those unfortunate enough to get bogged down in sugar sand stretches. Other roads were so rutted that imagining pulling a trailer full of kids (baby goats) to auction or beehives destined for orange groves offered some much needed comic relief from the property hunt. The conversation one-liner, “Look at it this way, it’s affordable...and nobody will ever visit” went from punchline to property classification after the first week of serious searching.
Purchasing new vehicles and repairing roads before even thinking about setting the first fence post started to hit home with us. Marketing livestock, selling farm-fresh products, going to town for supplies and hosting customers for on-site farm sales was more than just a consideration--it’s the business plan! It didn’t take long to realize basic property access does come with a price tag and quickly became a critical selection criteria once framed within our ultimate vision. With a paved county road and steady traffic within sight from the property’s road frontage, local foods such as pastured pork, farm-fresh eggs and raw honey straight from the farmer can easily become a reality for our county’s residents.//mr
In 2014 a couple of 40-somethings decided to make a change. The purchase of 10 raw, pine scrub acres along Florida's Nature Coast started it all. This is that story.