To buy or not to buy? The land dilemma

Toban and Jamie Dyck are deciding whether or not to purchase farmland

Fatigue. It’s on my mind. It’s the end of March. The snow is beginning to melt. Seeding is around the corner, and I’m struggling to find time.

But, that said, it’s exciting to daydream and fast-forward a month from now when full days will be spent outside working, prepping, planting. I’m sure you’re thinking the same thing.

This year will be different for our farm. Two weeks ago, we were given the opportunity to purchase land.

Since 2015, when I began testing my newly-formed farming mettle on a few rental acres, things have been progressing quickly for my wife, Jamie, and me. It’s been an absolutely amazing experience, so far, but it has required us to stay sharp along the way in order to meet the demands that seem to be constantly emerging.

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Since that time, my acres increased from 110 to 230; Jamie’s the- burgeoning interest in ag-related activities has transformed entirely into a passion (she’s going to dabble in chickens again this year); we purchased the homestead; and I got a full-time job in the ag sector.

So, now, starring down the barrel of what will no doubt be an exciting growing season, I’m wondering how I’ll find the time and the energy. Fatigue hasn’t hit yet, but my energy levels are finite. There is a threshold. There has to be. Or, maybe not.

Taking the step

I meet farmers who chore pigs, cattle and run grain farms, as well. Their schedules are inspiring. They work hard. Their stories are there to keep in mind, when, after jumping from meeting to meeting to meeting and desk to desk to desk, another meeting is scheduled whereby 120 acres are offered to Jamie and I at a price we could potentially make work.

This would/will be our first step into farm debt. It’s paltry compared to the numbers many of you face or are facing on a regular basis. Soon, I imagine, I’ll join your ranks. But, for now, this is all I know. And because it’s our first land purchase, it’s a decision we’re taking our time to answer. We have until the end of March. So, by the time you read this, we will have decided one way or the other.

The decisions we’ve had to make on the farm, so far, have been mild. Or, at least they’ve seemed this way, but perhaps only in retrospect. These decisions have only tested our level of commitment to the farming, rural lifestyle. But that’s all they have tested. The fiscal demands attached to them haven’t been terribly crippling.

This land deal is no longer about commitment to the farm. That is safely assumed by now. We’ve been here for five years this August. I have never doubted our decision to move back to my family farm.

No, this decision has to do with raw numbers and long-term investment (and a little pride — it would be quite something to own land). But, it also has very little to do with those things, either. There are enough anecdotes blowing around coffee shops that point how buying land rarely pencils out. It’s nearly always a risk.

It seems like a big move, but, like many of the moves we’ve made since moving here, it feels like it may be the right one. To pine for things to stay the same, is to be okay with things moving backwards.

Whether it’s farming or writing or teaching or working in the commodity group sector, it’s important to make moves. I’m busy, but not too busy to buy land. I’m busy, but not too busy to be passionate about everything I do.

Besides, how Jamie and I have been doing things may just be the way my family’s farm will have to operate in order for us to make it work. And I think we are both very okay with that.

Will farming slightly more than 1,000 acres become a hobby to my off-farm work? Is that a necessary trajectory for farms this size? I’m still too green at some aspects of this whole business to answer that question, but I wonder. And I wonder about this often.

Fatigue. While it is on my mind, it’s far from being a reality for me; for us. Jamie and I are excited for the weather to turn and for the farm to wake up. Her chickens arrive on May 9, but first thing first: land.

About the author

Columnist

Toban Dyck is a freelance writer and a new farmer on an old farm. Follow him on Twitter @tobandyck or email [email protected]

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