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Buying the farm

Many of us forget what life was like before the internet. It's an amazing thing. We forget that, too. For every cat meme, let's remember that social media has now started revolutions, helped elect the most powerful person in the world, and lets people organize in ways previously impossible.

If you like to collect stuffed pigeons, there's probably an app for that. I'm sure it would surprise most people to learn that there's an entire online industry dedicated to aerodynamic bicycle wheels. Triathletes worship at that altar though.

And farming is no different. If I asked you how you would go about starting to grow, say, organic vegetables, I'm guessing a likely answer would be "umm, you buy some land and plant some tomatoes." Sure, you can go the traditional real estate route, buy some land, and there you go. Of course, if you dig deeper, there are whole organizations, universities, non-profits, businesses, etc. involved in the under-the-radar world of American agriculture. Entire catalogs dedicated to heirloom varieties, rare seeds, not to mention an entire industry for declaring consumer labels like "organic" or "humane."

There are incubators, educational centers, banks, cooperatives, individuals, political networks...there's more than one way. There are farmers looking to help finance beginners. Land owners looking for farmers to help shift their property into agricultural use. Farmers looking for other farmers to join business ventures as partners. Land owners who just want their property to stay rural, not strip mall. Land owners willing to take sweat equity, a share of crops as rent...it's enough to make your head spin the amount of choices.

So I've been pondering lately what kind of situation we may be looking for. What would our agricultural "personal ad" look like? What would we be looking for in someone else who we may like to partner with? There's a very nice lady looking to start ruminants on her pasture in Vermont. How do you talk with someone about goals in this--pardon the pun--field?

Chicago family with young children seeks house, outbuildings, and acreage for raising heritage breed, dual-purpose sheep, beekeeping, chickens, and some tillable land for vegetables and/or hay. Home should be at least 3 bedrooms, existing fencing preferred, animals will be rotational grazed with possible humane certification. 

It sounds oddly...punctilious when you put it that way. Or maybe a bit like dating again?

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