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“A farm will make you a living or pay for itself – but it won’t do both”  – Justin Angell

Today, I’m placing the credit for this quote with my father, because he’s the one who explained this principle to me years ago. However, the likely reality is that some wise, old-timer gave my father that advice while sitting in The Ole’ Blue Room at the Columbia Livestock Auction.

Rural wisdom is often passed down in little nuggets – never written down or fully explained – just a quick thought. It is something for a young farmer to ponder while she sits in the tractor raking hay all afternoon.

IMG_0251Two Ways to Get a Farm

The way I see it, there are only two ways to get 100% ownership of a farm, let me know if you think of more. (I’m not talking about renting here.)

  1. Buy it
  2. Inherit it

photo copy 4Option 1: Buy It

If you buy a farm, rather than inherit it – this piece of wisdom is going to come in handy. If you buy a farm, your banker will probably set you up on a 25 or 30 year note – meaning you’ve got X number of years to make the payments on the farm. At the end of that time, you’ll own the place free and clear.

During those thirty years, if interest rates are favorable, you can work, sweat, and do everything in your power to make those payments. And, you probably will. But, if that farm is all you’ve got — you’re not going to make a good living, too.

In that case, you need a partner with a town job:

Definition of a Town Job: A wife/husband who works at the ______ {insert job title here} in town. I’m not joking here! This is farm economics. That constant, steady, 2-week paycheck is something your family can live off of. For example, you can pay your utilities, groceries, dental bills, health insurance, and other bills from this fund.

Then, the wife/husband works on the farm. The town job frees up the farm income. It can now be used to make farm payments & invest back into improving the farm.

Or, you need an off-farm source of income:

  • Custom harvesting or custom planting – pays per acre
  • Custom haying – pays per acre, per ton, or per bale
  • Freelance writing – pays per word, per project, or per hour
  • Artificial Insemination (AI) – pays per cow

The lesson here is that you can only expect so much out of a piece of ground. No matter how efficient your production methods or profitable your cow herd, your land will not make both the farm payment and all the living expenses.

IMG_0038Option 2: Inherit It

If you inherit a farm, congratulations. Now, you get to spend the rest of your life improving that place & living on a farm. It will need maintenance, new buildings, new water lines, gravel and those durn tractors always seem to wear out. Use a portion of the farm income to reinvest in improvements. Use the rest for your groceries and four sets of braces for your kids.

Happy Farming,

Sierra Shea


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Hey, I’m Sierra Shea! I am so glad you are here. 

Where do I start with writing to introduce this blog? At the beginning, I suppose: I’ve been writing on various platforms online since 2013. I started blogging shortly after moving to South Dakota.

I am a mother and a maker at heart. I’m so grateful to be married to John and mother of three: Joslyn, J.D. and Jesse.

I am a self-taught decorator and designer. I am a brand new shepherdess and a Spiritual Director.

I love living in South Dakota, even though the winters & the wind can be a near-daily struggle.

Blogging is a grounding force in my life and it helps get me out of my head, unstuck and moving in the directions I always hoped I’d be going!