Developing a small farm on your property is like starting any small business. It requires long hours, determination and a long-term commitment. When evaluating the available options for a piece of property, property owners should consider these factors: goals of the farm, physical resources on the farm, family resources and skills, and the type(s) of agricultural commodity that will be grown. These initial factors will help shape your decisions.

Climate

Marion County has a maritime climate that is characterized by cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. The county’s growing season is long, with an abundance of moisture for most of the year. Fifty percent of the annual rainfall in the county occurs from December to February. During the summer months the county is fairly dry and requires irrigation for most agricultural production. Frost is a common agricultural issue in the county and may require additional management techniques for the success of certain crops. Be aware that a single property can have multiple micro-climates caused by the terrain and natural features. Micro-climates have the ability to affect the lands’ capacity to grow certain crops. With the right micro-climate, uncommon crops can be grown where commonly grown crops will not thrive. Property owners should assess these factors before selecting their crops.

Farm Goals

Before establishing an agricultural business, property owners should identify their intentions in becoming a farmer: hobby, tax deferral, or the creation of supplemental or regular income. This decision should be realistic and based on site conditions, available labor, your financial situation, your family’s abilities, and your knowledge of agricultural practices. Start small and expand slowly as knowledge about your crops and site increase. Some aspects of farming can be learned from books, but with each year of practical experience you will greatly improve the productivity of your land.

Site Resources

The characteristics of a site such as soil type, orientation to the sun, topography, elevation, water availability and micro-climates may restrict the types of crops that can be grown, or might provide unlimited options. Matching crops with the capabilities of the land is a farmer’s best bet for success.

Family Abilities

A family’s knowledge and agricultural abilities should be directly related to the scale and intensity of an agricultural operation. Financial security should also be taken into consideration. Property owners who overex-tend themselves can destroy the possibility of long-term success. Caring for the crop can require a fair amount of time depending on the scale of the operation. It is good practice to choose agricultural commodities based on their management requirements and your family’s work schedule. During the summer, most crops need to be cared for on a daily basis. This can hinder summer vacation trips or traveling for certain holidays.

Tax Deferral

An agricultural tax deferral lowers the property tax burden on lands that are producing income from farming. In order to receive and maintain an agricultural tax deferral, farms must meet specific annual income require-ments based on the size of their land. These requirements will need to be met for three out of five years; otherwise the deferred taxes will need to be paid back in full. Before buying a piece of property check with the local tax assessor on the current state of a property’s tax deferral because the back property tax liability created by the previous property owner can be passed on to the new owner.
Agricultural production is not the only activity for which a property owner can acquire a tax deferral; forestry, wildlife habitat or entering into certain state and federally funded conservation programs can provide property owners with a tax deferral. Check with your local tax assessor on options for acquiring a property tax deferral.