Get From City to Farm – Read this if you are working toward moving from city or suburbs to rural living. We will help you get from city to farm or ranch.
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How to Get From City to Farm or Ranch
Every day, Internet search engines receive thousands of queries using phrases such as “how to move to the country” and “how to get to the ranch or farm.”
I have read countless forum posts by people from all economic walks of life and backgrounds wanting to move out to the country.
People are intrigued about the rural living lifestyle. They see value in its positive benefits for their lives and their families’ futures.
It is something they want to pursue. But many people don’t know how to make the move happen and Get From City to Farm.
It is daunting to think about such a major change. Existing jobs, homes, schools, health care, families, and friends have entangled many people in a way that make such a change nearly impossible.
These are important considerations and a part of our normal social fabric that give life substance.
The good news though, is that they don’t have to be so daunting if you understand that this is not an event, but a process of change that culminates with the actual move. It is very similar to moving to a new area for a new job.
Most of us don’t like change. But as I have read the stories of so many people wanting to move, I see a common thread. They want to move, but seem to always have reasons or excuses why they can’t. I won’t judge the excuses. For sure, it seems overwhelming.
But excuses and obstacles can get so big that they paralyze us, preventing us to take action. It confuses our heart’s desire with all the logistical facts that speak against a move.
How to Move to the Country
If you are unable to get started, or find yourself treading water, ask yourself this question:
Where do I want to be living five years from now?
It’s a simple question that can be answered very simply. It is a general question but an important one. You and your family need to ultimately agree on a clear and understandable answer.
What is the answer? On a beach? In a foreign country? In New York City? (But we do wish more communities and states adapted the booster seat laws NY.)
Perhaps in the country? Somewhere quiet with neighbors in the distance?
Questions to Ask Before Moving to the Country
Do you find yourself dreaming of the rural and country life? Does the desire come and go, or does it seem to stick around?
If it remains, you are probably on the track to a specific answer… move to the country, or start a farm or ranch. Discuss this with your spouse or partner. It’s important to be in agreement about the ultimate destination of the family.
It is no small thing to move your family and start a new life. The adults will need to be onboard to set a positive tone in the family, especially if you have children.
If you see yourself staying where you are or on a beach or in a foreign land, that is great. You can stop reading if you want, as these articles will not be going in that direction.
But if you see yourself living in a rural area, on a ranch or farm–living a new kind of life–then stay tuned for Step 2! 10 Things to Love About Rural Living
Strong Family Ties
This is an interview with the Strongs, another family with plans for a multi-generational farm. They have lived in rural areas before and are patiently working toward the day they can move full time to the country again.
Tell us about your life in the country and the city.
Our three-generation family has always loved the rural life. We moved several times and lived on small acreage in the past but never with self-sustainability as our focus.
Also, we owned and operated a small family business for more than 30 years and love and appreciate the dynamics of working closely with family. Making Money Farming: Multiple Incomes on the Farm
Currently, we live in the city. We are working toward selling our business so we can live and work full time on our 20 acres.
What drew you to move to a rural area?
We love the rural lifestyle, and we are also preparing for what we see as uncertain times in the future. We feel that rural areas will be safer and more self-sustaining. Preparing for food crisis
It will enable us to expand on our homesteading skills by growing our own food, having property for caring for livestock, and being less reliant on the grid.
What brought you to your particular area?
Although we are a close family we each are individuals with varied likes and dislikes, so when searching for an ideal homestead respect for one another’s preferences was a premium consideration.
For example, our patriarch, Louis, was raised in a fairly remote area with very harsh winters. His deal-breaker was ‘no six-month, 40 degrees below zero winters!’
Our little granddaughter, Tasha, is musically inclined so an area that was reasonably close to music instruction and venues was a must.
After prioritizing the true deal-breakers from the just-preferences, we began our search for a happy-compromise property. Through the grace of God, we found a lovely 20 acre parcel that is just waiting for our family to nurture and develop.
What kind of research did you do to find the right place for you?
We searched for countless hours online, talked with realtors, drove and looked at innumerable properties and asked many questions about various areas on forums (www.city-data.com/forum is a good one).
Although at times our quest for the right property seemed endless and frustrating, knowing that we had made a thorough search allowed us to make an informed decision with peace of mind.
How did you know when it was time to pursue a move?
We have lived ‘by-the-book’ our whole lives. We started our family-run business more than 30 years ago and although our company continues to thrive even in this sluggish economy, there is a high price to pay for the fast-paced lifestyle that is required to operate our company.
Government regulations, high taxes, arbitrary industry demands, are difficult to navigate and still have time leftover to enjoy life and family.
So after factoring in the emotional and physical toll of running our business as well as what we feel is an unstable future for the economy, we decided that it was time to quit dreaming of a better life and sell our business to finance a new beginning.
Yes, it was a scary decision but staying the course and continuing with our old life seemed much more frightening and bleak.
We have since moved beyond the initial fears that can plague a major life-change decision and enthusiastically look forward to making our final move to a new life.
What challenges have you faced with your transition?
Selling our business and commercial property has proven difficult in these hard economic times; however, we have a potential buyer interested so hope seems to be on the horizon.
In the meantime, we pray for contentment with our current life and the wisdom to utilize this period as a time to study and better equip ourselves for the new life that awaits us.
What changes will be easy to make?
We love life close to the land and have no desire to be immersed in today’s culture. Living at a slower pace is appealing. We want to have neighbors but don’t want to be so close that we can see and hear them.
Really, we are happiest when tending to gardening and critters, with jars simmering in the canner!
What tips would you give someone thinking about moving to a rural area?
Research, research, research, and, if you are a person or family of faith, PRAY.
Then, if it feels right to you, just do it – jump in. You’ll never regret it.
Sure, it’s natural to compare where you move to and where you moved from. It will take awhile to settle in. You’ll miss neighbors, school, and families and friends you once saw often or somewhat regularly. But as each month goes by and you settle in, you will be able to compare here vs there but will start to find advantages to the rural area.
To get from city to farm is no easy task but it can be done. Look for the good.
Trading Freeways for Country Roads
Meet Forrest and Deb, who made a move from Southern California to the Pacific Northwest over a decade ago—and have flourished in their new lifestyle.
Tell us about your prior city or suburban life—family, home, job?
We both grew up in Southern California, in the “Big City.” Forrest drove literally 60k + miles per year on the job. We both wanted out, to move to a small town and live a simpler life.
What drew you to move to a rural area?
We had decided that we didn’t like people – living in the “Big City” no one seems to care for anyone or anything.
Everyone is afraid to speak to anyone they didn’t know. You are surrounded by all those people but feel alone.
What brought you to this particular area?
We lived in Sandpoint, Idaho, for 12 years and loved it. Unfortunately, we needed to move for work. And with the economic climate of the past few years, we could no longer afford to live there.
Still interested in living in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, we looked around quite a bit before we settled on our new hometown in NE Washington State.
We like the feel of it. To us, it feels like what Sandpoint must have felt like generations years ago. It is still affordable. Hopefully it will stay this way rather than growing so rapidly as Sandpoint did.
How long did you prepare for your move?
It took us over 10 years before we made it to Sandpoint. In this case, we had tried twice before to move away from Southern California before we were able to make it work.
Because we are still working and weren’t retired. We needed jobs. So while our preparation would be to research for properties online and then go visit and buy — just make a decision and jump — we needed to find an area we liked as well as jobs we could commute to or work from home.
What kind of research or preparing did you do?
Before moving to Sandpoint we had a number of heartfelt discussions about what we wanted out of life before deciding that we wanted to live a simpler life in a smaller town.
We researched small towns including buying a book on “micropolitans,” towns of between 25 and 100 thousand people.
We visited several possibilities on vacation with our four children. One of those was Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. On a day trip, we visited Sandpoint. As we crossed Long Bridge, Forrest said, “This is it.”
How did you know when it was time to make the move?
We knew from previous efforts that we had to pay off our California bills in order to survive on the lower wages that we could expect almost anywhere in the country. Once we were able to do this, it was time to get from city to farm.
How did your family and friends react?
Our friends were supportive. Some of our family members were negative, but Forrest’s parents soon followed us to Sandpoint.
What challenges did you face with your transition?
Our biggest immediate challenge was financial. Forrest had developed pneumonia during the three-day drive up from Southern California and was unable to work in construction for several months after we moved.
We had a small savings account, but we had both expected to both get jobs upon our arrival.
The other big challenge was finding decent rental housing for our family, but this ended up being a blessing in disguise and helped us get established.
What changes were easy to make?
Driving fewer commuting miles.
Breathing cleaner air.
Hearing the birds instead of traffic.
Having room to spread out. Having space to do things outside and pursue sustainable living.
Setting up irrigation and rainwater harvesting system.
Liking people again. Being able to make connections with people.
People in small towns are not only willing to speak to someone they don’t know, they are also willing to joke around with them and help them out – who knew?
What tips would you give someone thinking about moving to a rural area?
Be sure that you are willing to accept it the way it is rather than trying to change it into something that you were accustomed to elsewhere.
Be ready and willing to accept help, and provide help to others when you can.
Dream of Homesteading
Today we have an inspiring story about a family that is documenting their journey on their own blog. Here’s how the family’s new life has been unfolding.
It all started with a dream.
Not a hopeful, wishing sort of dream, but a vision in your sleep sort of dream. The kind you’ll never forget, even years later.
In his dream, Papa saw an impression of our country’s future, laid out in the sky. He was left with a feeling of urgency, that we must begin preparing our family for unstable times unless we wanted to be caught vulnerable when it counted the most.
With this beginning came a lot of deep thought, late night discussions, and research to help us decide what it was we were preparing for, and what steps we needed to take to be ready.
The winter after the dream occurred, Papa had a close call with unemployment when two major construction contracts with his employer’s company fell through due to the economy.
Because of God’s grace and his employer’s generosity he remained employed, but the incident reinforced our desire to prepare for a rainy day.
Result After Moving to the Country
Fast forward three years. And we get from city to farm.
To make our first giant leap in preparing for an economic depression and/or a martial law situation, we purchased a rundown camper, fixed it up and moved it to family property to create a “bug out location.”
We used it as a camp and stored a few things there, but even though we knew we had reason to prepare for trouble, it still felt like a shock when Papa got the pink slip.
After five months of making do, we used our tax return to purchase a more comfortable camper, along with other homesteading supplies, and moved off-grid, leaving the mortgaged house behind.
Living in thirty-one feet
We’ve now been living here, on the land in a 31’ bunkhouse Dutchmen for 15 months. We have been blessed with our fourth child and a new job (in that order) since we arrived.
However, while our original purpose in abandoning the house and moving out here was to get out of the system and survive, we have used the opportunity as best we can to reach our long-term goals.
Live well with our growing family, no matter the economic, political, or social times we live in. Our homestead is still in development.
This year we are working on the outhouse and grey water leach field, next year we hope to break ground on our off-grid house, and a rainwater harvesting system but we have achieved a lot by trial and error, and a lot of determination.
We collect and use rain water, we made a compost toilet, we have a small vegetable garden and a decent medicinal herb garden, we raise backyard chickens for eggs and meat, and most of our power comes from using solar power electricity.
We also managed to stick it out through a New England winter, which we weren’t sure we would be able to do until we were halfway through it.
Eight steps Moving to the Country
There are so many different things I could focus on that are a part of the story, but since the focus for this series is “getting there,” I’ll try to break down the steps we took, to give you some helpful ideas.
We asked permission from family members to park our campers on their land. With step one approved, we began shopping for campers within our budget.
We downsized our home, literally shutting off half the house, had a huge yard sale, and began packing up.
Moving day – after many of our belongings were moved to the original camper which became our storage building, we hauled the new camper to the land and moved in.
We spent the first couple of weeks learning how to use the propane, water, and electronics in our new living space, which we were able to do before Papa got a new job near the end of 2011 (this whole time he was still applying for jobs, with no luck).
Once we had the important stuff figured out, Papa began work on additional homestead projects – digging a well, creating a rainwater collection system, preparing the ground for gardens, building the chicken run (we brought the coop from the old house), building a tool shed, and installing a clothesline.
All this while the kids and I checked out our new local resources: the laundromat, library, general store, etc.
Gradually we became more confident and became less dependent on outside assistance, like gas for the generator, water for showers, etc.
We are still not self-sufficient, but with time we hope to become so as much as possible, relying on local resources for extra things we need. Living this lifestyle is not easy – it has its trials – but the benefits are numerous:
Peaceful environment, free electricity, privacy from neighbors, ability to garden and have animals, guinea fowl and the prospect of an out of the way, self-sufficient, off-grid home, to support us no matter what the future holds.
What would you do differently if you had a second chance at making a go of rural living?
Kristy and Mike Athens moved to a rural property in 2003. But six years later they found themselves back in the city.
Now they’re on track to make another move to another country home. What will they do differently this time?
Here’s Kristy’s story:
Second Time Out: 5 Top Tips I Do Differently Next Time?
In 1999, my husband Mike and I bought a little house in Portland, Oregon.
As I mention in my book, Get Your Pitchfork On!, we lived across the street from a nice neighborhood park. We had fixed up the house and planted a garden.
Also, we planted fruit trees in the yard. We trained hops to climb the garage. This should have satisfied us.
We could take any of four different bus lines into Portland proper. People picked up our refuse and took it somewhere else. Water came to our house clean, and went away dirty. Friends thought nothing of stopping by for a visit.
The grocery, post office, restaurant—even a movie theater—were all within walking distance.
Yet, we drove around the Columbia River Gorge every weekend and imagined life on one of the homesteads tucked off the road.
We decided to chuck the house, which we’d remodeled from the studs out, and the garden we’d build from scratch, and bought a mini-farm on seven acres in the Columbia River Gorge in Washington State.
It was dreamy … for a while.
But contingencies we hadn’t planned on started popping up. We couldn’t keep up with the maintenance that the land and buildings required.
Being a part of the local community
We had cut ourselves off from Portland’s economy in an effort to become part of the local community, and then couldn’t support ourselves.
I don’t really fit into mainstream society, so I often felt different. Plus, I got involved in small-town politics, for which I was not prepared, and did not fare well. The 2009 recession dealt us a crushing blow; we sold our land and retreated to Portland.
We’re still licking our wounds, saving our money, and planning our next attempt at country living. It’s given me time to consider what I’ll do differently next time:
Top 5 Hacks Moving to the Country
Here are Kristy’s tips for moving to the country:
Have a Job First
When we moved to Portland, Mike drove 140 miles round-trip to his job. I was a freelance writer and editor so my physical location was less of an issue.
Working this way kept us isolated from the community. When we tried to get local jobs, it was difficult because we weren’t known.
This time, we will attempt to do our job search from Portland and then move after one of us gets hired. I can’t tell you whether this strategy will work yet. If it had already I wouldn’t be writing about it from my desk here in Portland!
Rent, Then Buy is an easy way to Get From City to Farm
Buying land in an area you haven’t lived in is a little like marrying someone you haven’t met; a happy ending is possible but not super likely.
The next time out, we will rent in a town near the area we’re hoping to settle in, and make sure that we complement the flavor of the town before we commit.
We actually liked the Gorge quite a lot.
And once we’ve demonstrated that we want to be a part of the community, we will likely get advance, insider notice of property that comes up for sale.
Choose Land Carefully
Mike and I were fairly conscientious about this the first time, but we were also guilty of getting whipped up in the romance of acquisition and making compromises we shouldn’t have.
For one, we will never live on a state highway again—too loud, too dangerous, and too much extra snow at the top of the driveway from the plows.
We will pay more attention to micro-climates on a parcel. We will take irrigation more seriously. And, we will look for mature fruit trees.
I have planted baby trees in two places now, and want to finally reap what I’ve sown! We will study zoning and local land-use policies.
Our dog, Phynn, was run over on the highway adjacent to our property.
Work on Diplomacy
Next time, I will wait a lot longer before I get involved in local politics. I will pay closer attention to who is friends with whom, and who isn’t friends. Also, I will learn who the big-deal families in town are, and who has married whom.
I will pick my battles carefully. I will understand that no one cares what my education is and where I’m from; all they care about is how I plan to contribute to their community.
Get a Tractor
As I say in Get Your Pitchfork On!: “No matter how strapping a pair you are, you will not be able to keep up if you try to do everything with a pickup, a wheelbarrow and two shovels.”
Those compact tractors are expensive but necessary.
Period. “Elbow grease” is no match for this much snow!
Return to Rural Small Farms, Hard Work, and Local Food
Rural Small Farms Boulder, Colorado is often in the news for being happy, healthy, and crazy about all things local—but not often does news coverage dive into policy efforts that underlie that hearty sheen.
One key: initiatives by the county government to support a local food system.
Boulder County leases approximately 25,000 acres to local farmers and ranchers in an effort to promote sustainable agriculture.
This acreage is part of approximately 90,000 acres of county-managed open space.
Having such local agricultural production capacity is remarkable in Colorado’s sprawling Front Range.
And heightened consumer interest in local foods has been a boon for local producers.
In addition to shaping consumer demands – the “all things local” craze also created new producer desires.
More people began envisioning lives as small-scale producers – a few acres of organic vegetables, a lavender farm, some goats.
Yet historically, most of the farmers and ranchers leasing county land operated at a large scale.
Niwot Farms, for example, is a natural beef operation with more than 1,000 head of cattle.
And according to Mary Young, a writer for The Blue Line, third generation Boulder County farmer Jules Van Thuyne, Jr. runs a 1,800-acre operation, with 950 acres leased from the county.
Yet the county sought a way to facilitate smaller scale-farming dreams.
And today, small producers (typically smaller than 20 acres) have access to public lands through recently developed regulations for a Growers’ Association model for agricultural leases.
Through the Association model, several producers work together on one larger parcel of land with access to shared resources, such as water, coordinated among members.
According to Adrian Card, Boulder County’s Colorado State University Extension Agent, the county currently has 3 Growers’ Associations encompassing 8 producers, with annual leases running $100/acre.
Hay Season on a Boulder Farm (courtesy of Let Ideas Compete via Flickr)
Growers’ Association producers include Ollin Farms, a family business committed to sustainable agriculture that operates a farmers’ market booth, on-farm dinners, summer youth camps and also offers shares in its “community supported agriculture” (CSA).
Organic produce, eggs, and honey can also be found at Hoot n’ Howl Farm, one of three farms which comprise the Gunbarrel Growers’ Association.
A key challenge of the program has been helping would-be farmers realistically consider the requirements of running a production business.
Boulder County’s Extension Office offers a variety of informative print material, as well as interactive listservs and business workshops.
The county also requires each member of a prospective GA have farming experience and/or direct mentorship and oversight from an experienced farmer.
Many local producers have developed close connections with community grocers and farmers’ markets.
Boulder’s top restaurants, including Frasca, Salt, and the Kitchen also foster close connections with local farmers and ranchers.
The Black Cat Farm Table Bistro has gone so far as to create their own organic 70 acre farm which supplies the restaurant, a farmers’ market booth, as well regular food deliveries for their membership-based community food share.
This strong connection between local restaurants and food producers – from vegetables to mushrooms to poultry — was noted in Boulder’s 2010 recognition as “America’s Foodiest Town” by Bon Appetit magazine.
Boulder County’s first Growers’ Association hit the ground in 2008 and the program is following a path of slow, careful growth.
According to Extension Agent Adrian Card, key is to ensure potential producers have a solid business plan based on realistic expectations.
A successful backyard garden isn’t sufficient to ensure larger-scale success.
Still, with its innovative policy setting and relatively strong local market, Boulder County offers a place where ambitious small-scale producers can pursue their farming dreams.
Would-be farmers must bring experience, determination and a willingness to work hard, but the Growers Association Model provides access to another central requirement – land.
Return to rural communities: Resilience over efficiency
Before moving, twelve years ago, to a village with a population of 1,230 deep in the Alps, Daniel and Johanna led a dual life in Zurich, Switzerland — accountants by day and members of a small theater troupe in the evenings and on weekends.
Living downtown in a city that consistently finds its way onto lists of cities with the highest cost of living, however, did not come cheap.
According to Daniel, “when Johanna became pregnant, we knew we couldn’t afford an apartment with enough space for all of us”.
On an earlier hiking vacation, they had passed through a small village and had stopped to visit the garden in the local cloister.
At the time, Daniel’s eye was caught by the adjacent lot overgrown with weeds.
As Johanna’s pregnancy advanced, Daniel thought again of the overgrown lot and bought a bus ticket back to the village.
“The garden was still there, but there was no one to clear the weeds from the next lot.
I talked with the owner of the land, applied for a government grant, and we moved into a nearby vacant farmhouse two months later.”
He soon cleared the land, planted peppermint and an array of other herbs, and within two years had the land certified organic and started producing his own line of herbal tea mixes.
Since then, he has operated a small one-room shop on the cloister grounds, expanded sales of tea and vegetables to a number of local fairs and markets, and started raising goats.
After giving birth, Johanna got a part-time job at the town’s nursery and started organizing a theater group at the local church.
At the time, it was a big change, but now I can’t imagine it any other way. When I was young, I always liked the idea of living in the countryside. It has been much simpler and much happier than I imagined.—Daniel
Urban-rural migrants lost in the flood of rural-urban migration
But why consider the story of Daniel and Johanna? After all, statistics show that the largest migration in human history is currently underway as people move from the countryside to the urban centers.
According to current models, the future is cities — bigger, denser, more populous and more externally dependent on resources and energy than ever.
At a recent symposium, entitled Sustainable Urban Development: Challenges and Issues in Developing Countries and co-hosted by the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) and the United Nations Center for Regional Development, it was pointed out that experts expect the number of people living in urban areas to grow from 3.4 billion to 6.3 billion by 2050, an 85% increase.
Speaking at this event, Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji, Asia Regional Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, pointed out that “while cities cover a mere 2% of land space worldwide, they consume a whopping 75% of the resources”.
The massive scale and the rapidity of this shift in human civilization have fostered broad generalizations of an inexorable movement of people from rural to urban areas.
Daniel and Johanna are not alone though — recent reports from Korea, for example, show that in 2011 there was a 158% increase in the number of households leaving cities to settle in rural areas.
One explanation given by Korea’s Agriculture Minister Suh Kyu-yong is that city dwellers are increasingly packing up and moving to the countryside “to seek a quieter life”.
Just as there are a number of commonly cited drivers of rural-urban migration, however, it likewise seems logical that the reasons for households moving in the other direction are more nuanced and differentiated.
Considering the fundamental changes in human civilization that are forecast for the coming decades, are these urban-rural migrants the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, or just exceptions to the prevailing rule?
And what role can these urban-rural migrants potentially play in supporting ecosystems and fostering resilience?
Important role of rural populations in preserving biodiversity
Humans can play a crucial role in maintaining and even increasing the biodiversity in their surroundings.
There are many places around the world in which people have interacted with their natural surroundings in a harmonious way for many generations, creating socio-ecological productions landscapes (SEPLs).
These dynamic mosaics of land usage and ecosystems/habitats provide sustainable livelihoods that are interlinked with local culture and community.
Terraced rice fields, for example, are home to a multitude of species, but depend on regular human maintenance.
A recent survey in Japan recorded a staggering 5,668 different species living in rice paddies.
On average, rice farmers in Japan are 66 years old, and the rapid depopulation of the country as a whole, and rural areas in particular, means that these biodiversity-rich SEPLs face abandonment and fundamental change.
A case study published by the Satoyama Initiative looked specifically at landscapes that had been abandoned around Machida City, a suburb of Tokyo.
After observing a steady drop in the numbers of plant and animal species, a project was set up under local management to restore the landscapes through human intervention and make full use of traditional knowledge.
In 1986 a baseline survey identified 591 different species in these areas, but by 2002, the landscapes had become home to 680 different species.
Likewise, forests left unattended — particularly planted monocultures — may grow denser as they age, leaving the forest floor without sunlight.
Those thinned and managed in a sustainable fashion, however, let in enough sunlight to feed lush undergrowth, which in turn fosters a wide range of different species.
Such SEPLs require people to stay on the land to manage it in a harmonious manner.
As such, there has been growing focus by urban planners, among others, on the impacts of this flow of people from rural to urban areas, while the SatoyamaInitiative and others look at how to maintain healthy communities and ecosystems in the face of ageing populations and a lack of successors.
Is specialization antithetical to resilience?
With resilience a key focus of the upcoming IUCN World Conservation Congress to be held in September 2012 in Korea, it is useful to consider the implications of people moving to and from cities.
Perhaps it is most informative to look first at systems that demonstrate a lack of resilience.
Coral reefs, for example, are characterized by dizzying levels of biodiversity, are visually stunning, and are recognized for the potential pharmaceutical value of their genetic diversity.
At the same time, many of the organisms living in these environments are tremendously specialized.
Individual clown fish species, for example, have co-evolved with anemones in a symbiotic relationship that leaves each highly dependent on the other for survival.
Considering the fundamental changes in human civilization that are forecast for the coming decades, are these urban-rural migrants the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, or just exceptions to the prevailing rule?
In a relatively static environment, such specialization has allowed these organisms to efficiently exploit niches within the ecosystem.
At the same time, it has rendered them highly susceptible to changes in their surroundings.
Mass bleaching of coral has been closely associated with unusually warm ocean temperatures and rising water levels, both of which have been predicted as outcomes of global climate change.
With coral literally providing the foundation of these ecosystems, and each organism within the system heavily dependent on the others, such events could cause the entire ecosystem to collapse.
Collectively, these specialized organisms therefore constitute an ecosystem with a low degree of resilience in the face of global climate change.
Scientists have predicted that global warming will spawn a host of extreme weather events, which will test the resilience of ecosystems across the world.
Couple this with the spread of invasive species, widespread habitat loss and ecosystem degradation, and the future looks grim for highly specialized organisms like the giant panda, which feeds almost exclusively on bamboo, or the five-needle Alberta pine, which relies entirely on a single species of bird for seed dispersal, the Clark’s Nutcracker.
On the other hand, organisms with less specific diets and a greater capacity to cope with fluctuations in temperature and weather patterns may flourish in the future as more specialized competitors for resources disappear.
Are rural communities inherently more resilient than cities?
Turning away from coral reefs for a moment and focusing again on cities, it has been noted that efficiency is one of the keys to economic growth.
Efficiency, in turn, has often been achieved through increased specialization.
Many urban residents have a small range of highly specialized skills such as accounting, legal advising, pediatrics, etc.
They exercise these skills in an efficient manner, and rely on other specialists to meet the fundamental needs of their daily lives.
In many cases, urban residents lack even the most basic skills associated with securing food and shelter, and are successful due to:
- Continued demand from society for their own area of specialty; and
- Availability of other specialists who can provide them with food and shelter.
The absence of either point would raise serious challenges for the individual.
It could therefore be argued that urban systems, filled with their highly specialized and externally dependent individual parts, lack resilience in the same way that a coral reef does.
Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for example, more than 600,000 people left the capital Port-au-Prince in a mass exodus for the rural areas because food distribution networks had shut down and many people had lost any form of shelter.
Movement away from urban centers towards rural areas may come with an increase in resilience as specialization decreases and skill sets expand.
This does not have to be a dire conclusion, however.
For, while evolutionary processes have shaped the specialization within a coral reef, it is recent economic and social forces that have shaped urban specialization.
The giant panda cannot suddenly decide to diversify its diet, but people can always add to their skill sets.
Indeed it seems that the denser the community, the greater the pressure towards specialization.
On one end of the scale, Robinson Crusoe alone on his island was responsible for every aspect of his daily survival.
Further along the scale, a small group of pastorals in the Sahara may have some areas of individual expertise, but each member of the group remains responsible for a broad range of different actions.
At the other end of the scale are extremes like New York or Tokyo, where specialization has reached its zenith and it is possible to earn one’s livelihood solely from working as a pet therapist or wine taster.
In some cases, therefore, movement away from urban centers towards rural areas may come with an increase in resilience as specialization decreases and skill sets expand, as with Daniel as he moved away from the specificity of accounting and took on all aspects of starting an organic herb farm, raising livestock, and marketing his wares.
If estimates hold true and the global population expands to over 9 billion people by 2050, including over 6 billion urban inhabitants, this means that over two thirds of the world’s population could potentially be based in areas characterized by a lack of resilience.
In purely economic terms, cities may represent paragons of efficiency, but the trickles of people leaving for rural areas may reflect some element of a universal human consciousness that resilience rather than efficiency may be the best survival strategy over the long term.
Buying used equipment an essential part of sustainable farming
Buying used farming and construction equipment is a key part of sustainable farming.
When you choose to farm ecologically you are not only focusing on the profitability of your crops but you are also benefiting your environment by utilizing renewable resources to grow your food.
This enhances not only the lives of people you provide product to but also the farmers who work and live off the land.
A single farm can become a self-sufficient method of recycling when you consider how damaged crops and animal waste can become fertilizer.
Crop rotation nurtures the soil and rain water can even be used to water the plants. Money and natural resources are saved to a great degree by using this method.
Purchasing used construction equipment is just another form of recycling (or reuse) that can take place on a farm.
Used construction equipment for a farm usually comes from previous users or suppliers that no longer wish to use the pieces because they have gotten older and their parts are harder to find.
This can be a nuisance for an operation that doesn’t have the time to stop and work on their equipment or try to find parts for it.
Farmers who know how to work on their own equipment and don’t mind doing a little looking around for parts won’t have a problem with used equipment.
Technology also often becomes outdated and manufacturers phase out certain pieces that don’t match up to the new and latest releases.
As the economy fluctuates and the construction equipment market changes certain pieces come and go.
As people buy new, the older equipment that still functions well needs a new home.
Unless a piece of equipment is labeled as being broken down it probably will function nicely after a small tune-up and inspection.
Sometimes a few small pieces are needed to make the engine run better but this often only costs a few dollars and can make a big difference over how much you would have saved on a brand new piece of construction equipment.
You can also make any modifications you need for your own farm and it’s often easier to do this on an older piece of equipment.
It’s not necessary to doubt the quality of a used piece of equipment in order to make sure you are running a self-sustaining farm.
Most sellers will encourage you to try out the equipment before purchasing and it’s never in their best interest to try and sell something that doesn’t work properly because a bad reputation could develop.
This could prevent future transactions from occurring so it’s not likely a bad piece would be sold. Most details are stated upfront and many times a warranty is put into effect for at least 30-60 days.
This gives you enough time to take your new purchase home and try it out. If any problems are going to arise they usually will within the first month or so.
Purchasing used equipment as a key part of sustainable farming allows for a reduction of energy costs and improvement in the environment. New equipment doesn’t need to be made if there are older pieces being used and this saves on factory costs.
Raw materials won’t be consumed at high levels either.
Used construction equipment is a great way to go green on your farm and help not only yourself but others and the environment as well.