Farm dreams driving Catskills real estate desires

Fisher-Price farming set. Photo by J.E. Theriot, via Flickr.

David Knudsen, the Sullivan County real estate broker who blogs at Sullivan County Real Estate CBA Blog, has noticed a new trend in the requests from his clients who are looking to by land upstate: They want to farm.

Or, Knudsen notes, they at least want to own a farm, perhaps because of the growing popularity of the local food movement:

This year there's a new trend, farms or farmettes. Right now my colleagues and I at CBA are working with about a half dozen clients looking for a place where they can "farm". That term is loose, but among these buyers it's more ambitious than just garden. (I'm also fielding another one or two calls a week from folks asking about farms.) These shoppers are typically looking for a place with 10, 20 or even more open, tillable acres that can be cultivated, as well as have space for raising animals like goats or chickens ... When I talk to some of these farm shoppers, I get the impression that they want to buy a farm so they can say they own a farm. Having your own farm upstate is probably the ultimate locavore status symbol, and has a lot more punch than just saying that you have a place upstate with a big garden.

Knudsen is a bit bemused about this new rage for farms among city-dwellers who don't have a clear idea of how back-breaking farming really is:

I spend quite a bit of time talking with these folks, particularly to balance the reality with the romance. The dream of having a farm is admirable, and the growing popularity of the locavore movement will only increase demand for locally produced products. But it's hard work, and even keeping up with a big garden is a huge challenge for weekenders.

But, he concludes, this could be a big opportunity for anyone with Catskills farmland who's willing to sell, particularly because there isn't as much farmland on the market in the Catskills as you'd expect.

Knudsen concludes his post with a link to an example of the kinds of buyers who are looking for farmland in the Catskills: A Brooklyn-based MeetUp group called "Create An Eden" that wants to form an "off-the-grid sustainable eco-village" devoted to permaculture. The group is planning to buy 100 acres of land somewhere in the Catskills region soon. From the group's webpage:

We're looking for land now and getting in touch with future community members at this time. We are looking at land near a larger city or town, between 40-100 acres (or more if possible) mixed meadows and forest, stream. Projected 20-50 individuals or families. Allocation of 1-2 acres per family at $5000 an acre for the land to make an individual homestead for growing food and building your home.

I hope someone has told these good souls how cold it gets up here in the winter. And they might want to keep in mind that hoary old saying about Catskills soil: "Two stones for every dirt."

Correction: The saying isn't "two rocks to every dirt," as I first wrote. Thanks to Lynne Resch for the sharp eyes.