How To: Get Access To Land

Private property is probably the silliest idea civilized people invented next to war. The brilliant fellow who cut the valley floor I live on, perpendicular to the watershed and bulldozed Indian burial mounds, promptly died of colon cancer after he sold off his McFarms. Talk about instant karma.

The ranchers before him drained the riparian areas and trapped out the beavers for grazing sheep. That ended the creation of topsoil and started the mining of fertility to the point of what was 20′ of riparian loam is now compacted. Today the valley floor is devoid of wetlands, shade canopy and deficient in organic matter.

The definition of private property: 1. A social system to keep other people off a plot of land so you can impose your short sighted vision, exploit it and hand it off more depleted or overbuilt to the next person.

Since we are stuck with private property until we re-indigenize the white man or society becomes an uber hippie commune, here are strategies to gain access to land.

Squat

Just kidding.

Get a Job Meets Cob Cottage

I know this is not something every aspiring permie or hippie does not want to hear but it can be effective when trying to buy land. Earning some dinero is a great way to get a loan to buy land if you are not a lucky spermer to inherit land.

So you do not go neck deep into debt, focus your money on good land within biking distance of an interesting town. Then build a tiny house, cob cottage, put up a yurt or a dome. If you are a couple building your own place can be a wonderful bonding experience together. On the other hand the relationship may not survive, look at it as a good test. To reduce the learning curve, take a Complete Cob workshop at the Cob Cottage Company.

Seller Financing

Some wise sellers will offer you owner financing while you build your credit. The agreed monthly comes off the top when the balance is due in 2-3 years. This is how I bought my first piece of property. The farm family selling offered financing, I built my credit, got a loan and paid them off early. A realtor can generate the paper work for a contract for deed.

Tribe Up

Seriously, find some like minded friends and buy a parcel or a house with a few bedrooms in town. You can create a rural or urban homestead. You should work out ahead of time how money is handled, who pays what, how people can be asked to leave, shares bought out, etc. Maybe ask an attorney to create a land trust for your group.

I seriously believe community is the future. It is a lot more efficient than everyone having their own driveway, car, garage, kitchen, laundry, etc. As a group you can buy a larger place, divide up the work, cooking, veggie patch, preserving and maintenance. Every place always needs a caretaker.

Family up, mamas find your Captain Fantastic. Create healthy community to raise your children. Live the green dream.

Tribal Business

This is similar to community but it puts a community business at the heart. Most communities fail because they do not have a collective way to make a living. The corollary is, any long establish community has or is a business. Think Breitenbush Hot Springs, Esalin Institute, Green Gulch Zen Center, the Oregon Country Fair. The fair is not a community but it is a heck of a collective tribal business.

These organizations make members economically interdependent on one another. They have long established rules, land trusts, how to operate, succession and even how to handle the arrival of a member’s new partner. Work out as many details as possible before you get started, improve as you go.

Land Share and Community Garden

Look for or start a land share group near you. Some organizations try to connect people with available land those who want to work it sustainably whether through rent or purchase.

Many communities have set aside small plots for gardening. In my town of Ashland, Oregon the Parks and Recreation department manages the Ashland Community Garden. Check with your city to see what is available.

That Old Farm

Drive around and see if you can find a farm that needs some love. Sometimes an elderly farmer would love to find a way to pass the farm along to the next generation as long as their needs can be provided in the mean time. For example, offer to pay rent for the farm to support the elderly person in their home or retirement home in exchange for maintaining and working the farm. This can be a form of contract for deed, that when the owner passes away, the renter inherits it free and clear. In France a similar arrangement for apartments or flats is called a viager.

Permaculture Design Course (PDC) Certificate

The last nugget of wisdom is to take a two week permaculture design course on a working farm or permaculture institute. Do not take a course at a college or yoga center, you won’t learn much more than you can read in a book. Look for one with hands-on experience in a working setting.

Having you PDC will give you whole systems eyes and make you better at picking the best land and developing the most sustainable solution for it. It will also reduce the number of mistakes you make and increase your chance for success!

Chuck Burr