30 August 2007

Most Difficult Decision

We've recently been faced with a very difficult decision. And, at last, we've made it.

After six years of building and cultivating this farm...we're moving.

There's nothing wrong with the farm, or the community, or our neighbors; even the most superficial reading of this blog would tell you that. Rather, it's all about a changing and evolving sense of priorities and what's important to us.

When we escaped to this place six years ago, our priorities were simple:
1) Get out of California;
2) Buy a small farm on which we could raise our family's food;
3) Be five hours away from Mrs. Yeoman Farmer's family in Michigan.

This place fulfilled all those priorities, and had many other benefits too numerous to list. However, over the last year or so, we've been increasingly realizing that in our current location we are too isolated from extended family. Our children rarely get to see their grandparents or their cousins, or friends who are children of our good friends in Michigan. The precipitating event which helped put the issue in focus is an extended illness my mother-in-law has been experiencing. As we found ourselves increasingly concerned about her health, and wanting to be involved in the day-to-day happenings up there, we grew increasingly aware of our distance and isolation. And increasingly aware of the real value of proximity to extended family.

The last few times we've been up to MI to visit, we've explored the country properties within a half hour or so of Mrs Yeoman Farmer's parents. Finally, in the last couple of weeks, we've decided on a beautiful seven-acre place which has nearly everything we could ask for. We haven't yet made an offer, but hope to do so soon.

And that brings us to the other big issue: what will become of our farm here in Illinois. Once we began to spread word here in the local community that we are planning to move, our next door neighbor drove over in his pickup truck...and made an offer to buy our property. He currently owns the 75 acres that our old farmhouse and its 5 acres were originally attached to, years ago. He is a building contractor, and constructed his own house over on those 75 acres --- and has personally done all the renovations and remodeling on our house these last six years. He's the best neighbor a person could ask for out here in the country; he and his wife are life-long residents of the area, know everybody, and have been an invaluable resource for us. And they're some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

Our neighbor wants to help his son, who works with him as a partner in his business, buy our house. He understands the value of being close to family, and wants to keep his own family close. (And for that reason completely understands why we want to move.)

On one level, our neighbor's offer is a Godsend. We could sell our house tomorrow, without any real estate commissions, without doing any of the myriad small repairs and clean-ups that'd be necessary to list the house with a Realtor, without worry about the deal falling through, and so forth.

And yet...we know what would happen to this farm once our moving truck pulled out of the driveway. The fences would come down. The trellis system would come down. The grapes would be uprooted or mowed under. The dozens of fruiting brambles and maturing fruit trees would be forgotten. Mrs Yeoman Farmer's enormous organic garden would fill with weeds. Our pastured poultry pens would be junked. The pasture would become an enormous ATV racetrack. In short, after all the work and all the sweat we've invested these last six years in turning this place from a "country house" into a productive organic farm ... it would once again become simply a country house like any other.

On one level, we'd be happy our neighbor's family was sticking close by each other. And yet, on another level, we'd be disappointed that another family wasn't able to use and enjoy the farm as a farm. Small organic farms are hard to find, and even harder to set up. If there's someone who'd like a farm like this one, it'd be a shame if they couldn't buy it.

So, as much as we'd like to sell this property to our neighbor, we'd first like to throw open an opportunity to anyone out there who might be interested in buying it as a farm. Anyone been reading this blog and wishing they could do what we do? Well, here's your chance.

I've prepared a sheet with basic information about the property, which can be downloaded by clicking on this sentence. Some things to keep in mind, that are not on the sheet: we will include some livestock to help get you started. Want some laying hens? Ducks? Turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas? A doe goat kid? A milking stanchion? Pastured poultry pens? A small starter flock of Icelandic sheep? All that can be discussed. More importantly, we will take the time to show you all the property's features, and what you ought to do to maintain it.

But if you are interested, please let me know quickly via email so we can talk. Things are starting to move faster than I thought they would. If there is a family out there that wants to farm, we want to help them do it.


Athos said...

The family component to your decision is truly the vital one. We drove up to my brother's place near Lake Charlevoix, and MI seems a great state. God bless, and enjoy the MI homestead, should that (or another) work out.

Jeff Culbreath said...

What a beautiful place, Chris. A what a bargain! If we had come across this a few years ago we might have snapped it up ...