For many city folk, owning a farm and living the country life are alluring to say the least.
Here are some important points of consideration, to help you on your way.
Making a living as a farmer is tough and, in most areas, you’ll need to have $500,000 – $1.5 million at your disposal to buy a property that’s capable of becoming a profitable enterprise.
Once you’ve got the funds together, you’ll need to pick the right piece of land.
Start by deciding which crop you want to grow, or which livestock you want to raise. Then, make sure that your property has the right:
- soil type (you can commission your own test)
- size (it needs to be fairly large, so that you can grow enough produce to cover your costs)
- aspect (north-facing slopes tend to be frost-free)
- location (it needs to allow easy access for trucks)
And also keep an eye out for signs of soil degradation – salinity, erosion, or chemical contamination – as well as indications of what the land was previously used for.
The most important aspect of the farmhouse is that it is liveable, provides adequate accommodation and is well positioned.
Ultimately, if you plan to generate income from your farm, then the quality of the home should be seen as secondary to the quality of the land.
Australia is the driest inhabited continent, with many districts going through extended periods of unreliable rainfall. The critical factors to understand about a property’s water supply include:
- reliability (a general rule of thumb is to look at rainfall records over the past 20 years)
- source (bore, dam, river, or irrigation)
- quality (you’ll need to check it’s right for the intended purpose)
Irrigation rights are a plus, but farmers should factor in the cost of electricity to run the pumps.
Commercial farms have to comply with a number of government regulations, including those related to:
- fertiliser and chemical use
- control of pests and weeds
- treatment of animals (stock and native)
- fences along boundaries, roads and waterways
- fire prevention
- clearing of trees or scrub
- land and water conservation.
Generally, you have the right to use a plot of land in the same way it was previously used, and should be able to commercialise this use fairly easily – although it ultimately depends on local zoning.
Farming grants are non-repayable loans the government offers farmers, in the event that they meet certain requirements. These qualifying criteria change over time, and vary from state to state.
At the moment, there are no national grants specifically targeted at helping Australians set up their own commercial farming operations, but there are many other agricultural grants.
For instance, the national Department of Agriculture and Water Resources offers innovation grants of up to $1.5 million, to help farmers “implement sustainable practices, reduce farm costs and build productivity”.
Be a little different
Most of Australia’s best farmland is held in large parcels by experienced operators, which can make it hard for first timers to find a viable farm within their budget.
The best opportunities lie in ‘niche’ uses, such as guinea fowl or ducks. And he also suggests offering on-farm accommodation, to provide a little extra income.