For whatever reason, and there are many, some people are feeling drawn to get land and do what they can to live from it. Good fortune would be the timing of the purchase and the finances to do so in this current economic environment. While large farms are being snapped up.. there are deals to be had on other land holdings.
Many towns are catching up on collecting back taxes by way of auctions. Around here.. that would be silent auctions set by the town, some decent sized lots of a few acres starting at $1000.. and have quite the lovely luxury vacation home to boot. Even though there was parcels of 10 acres, I wouldn't have touched them with a 10 foot pole.. and that would be because of local restrictions. Wile a gorgeous home, and ample land on very fertile soil.. you can't do a darn thing with it beyond mowing grass. There are other offerings in different locales that are not so restrictive. It pays to know if you can do what you want to do ahead of time.
When you are looking for land, and moving on to land.. you need to have some things set in order. First thing is making sure it is the right property for your needs. It is easy to dream, and in that dream the acreage expands ever further.. the list of things to accomplish gets incredibly long. If finances are no option, then there is no issues with accomplishing that dream. If money is tight, a reality check is in order if you truly want to do this.
Building a farm, or living off the land is a work in progress. Before you can even build that imaginary barn.. you need to know what to look for, or look out for in a site.
Location, so important that realtors can't seem to say it once, and your intended uses. Check services in the area and their distance. How far is it from a town with stores, doctors, grain mills, hospitals, lumberyards, emergency services, Department of Human Services, grocery stores, etc. What is next to the property.. undeveloped land, farms, forest preserve? Are there any industries that effect the location? How is it zoned? Is there electric, gas, cell phone reception, internet, propane? If you are considering alternate housing styles.. make sure you check ordinances. Check for animal restrictions, water rights, mineral rights. You get the idea. While getting away from it all seems like a wonderful thing, there is something to be said for not having to drive 40 miles one way to get Immodium.. especially when you are the one needing it!
Then look at the territory.. what grow zone is it in? What is the annual rainfall? What water sources are there? Is flooding an issue? Fires? Land erosion? What kind of grading/ sloping?
Observations of what is growing on the land also gives input. Original homesteaders would use trees as a guide to selecting sites. Out here.. black walnuts were a sign of fertile land. Great it is fertile, but that's another thing to look for is toxicity. If you intend on keeping livestock, make note of the kinds of trees around and the types of vegetation. Example would be my in-laws.. they have 2 pastures for the horses. They can't use the back pasture because of all the red maples. Red maple leaves can be toxic to horses. Keep an eye out for natural resources of the area.
If you intent to keep livestock, you may want to look here at a list of toxic plants.
Size matters. The more arid the location, the more land needed to support you. As well if the area has a short growing season, you need to take that into account. Old homesteads employed cisterns frequently, as well wind powered pumps to bring up water from underground.
If you are gardening an area under an acre, you can do it by hand. It'll be a lot of very hard work. A decent rear tine rototiller will be able to handle the job, you can even do it with hand tools and a lot of sweat. Cultivating bigger plots up to a few acres is then moving on into larger tractors or animal power. Animal power (horses/ oxen) is not for everyone. It was a nearly lost art that is slowly making an unusual comeback of sorts. While you don't feed a tractor, or have to take care of it everyday.. animal teams don't compact the soil like tractors do. That's a whole separate tangent..
The placement of livestock and gardens in regards to the water source is another key component.
Find the local USDA office.. and use it. You can find out about pests and diseases in the area, what strains of plants work well, planting times, harvesting times, general soil information of the surroundings.
Another thing to consider is getting soil and water tested before purchasing. Some geographical areas can have naturally occurring heavy metal deposits. Some water in these rural locations.. are not suitable for consumption and filtration becomes a concern.
I am currently working on a gardening on the cheap entry. A lot of this is scattered due to having to jot things down in a notebook while on the farm.. then attempting to decipher it when I get back to town.
I'm aware my writing skills are lacking. lol I can however build up a garden from next to nothing after having to do it so many times over the years.