North Americans Living “Lighter on the Land” on Small Farms Overseas

Staple foods are skyrocketing in price. In fact, the U.S. Agriculture department just estimated a 3% to 4%-rise in food prices for this year alone.

Some folks have responded by planting bigger vegetable gardens and getting a few backyard chickens. But others are taking it one step further and leaving the U.S. behind to live a little lighter on the land.

In the June 2011 issue of International Living Magazine, editor Suzan Haskins talks with several expats embracing a more self-sufficient life outside the U.S. in her article, “Farms and Gardens: The Freedom of Self-Sufficiency.”

What’s the appeal? “A ‘self-sufficient’ lifestyle used to mean lots of hard work and isolation,” Haskins says. “But today, with the world at our fingertips, it’s easy to find a plot of oh-so-affordable fertile land to grow your own vegetables, raise some chickens, maybe milk some goats…and check your email 11 times a day if you feel like it.”

Haskins explains that farmland remains abundant, fertile, and incredibly cheap in places like Nicaragua, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Mexico.

What’s more, you don’t need a whole lot of experience to start your own self-sufficient farm either… and produce all the food you and your family could ever need.

Hiring outside farming help is also exceedingly affordable overseas – and also a legitimate way to help local residents earn additional income.

Canadian expats Janice and John-Marc Gallagher know this first hand. In the International Living Magazine article, they reveal that neither had ever lived on a farm before. But once they laid their eyes on a 38-acre farm in rural Nicaragua, it was love at first sight.

They moved into the old farmhouse on the property in 2008.

Today, their farming operation is running strong and providing all the food they need… and then some.

“We raise cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and horses,” says Janice. “We grow black beans, corn and tobacco that my husband uses to blend his own cigars… The biggest surprise is how self-sufficient we are. Our cows give milk, so I make mozzarella cheese to sell to local restaurants. I make great mozzarella cheese and it’s all due to YouTube! We make our own butter, sour cream, and cream. We have our own eggs. We have our own fruit trees and avocado trees. We eat our own pork, beef, and lamb. It’s really satisfying and healthy.”

Dave Merritt is experiencing similar “off-the-grid bliss” on his farmland… in Costa Rica. “I come from a city background,” Merritt says, “but I wanted a farm to grown my own food and live off the grid. Right now I only produce tilapia (a type of fish) for personal consumption. I’m not making any money but it definitely helps out with the food bill.”

The “off-the-grid” farming lifestyle appeals to him as well. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,” Merritt says.

And then there’s Aya Wada, whose family owns a two-and-a-half acre plot of farmland near Cotacachi, Ecuador. Aya didn’t have any farming experience before moving to Ecuador. But once she made the move, she got to know people practicing organic farming, and they encouraged her to produce healthy food. Today she sells her harvest in her organic-foods shop.

So where are the best places to start your own farm overseas? And how much will you have to spend to make it happen?

In International Living Magazine, editor Haskins includes several farm properties for sale.

For example, you could own a 10-acre hilltop farm in Panama for only $65,000. Or a three-bedroom country farmhouse in Costa Rica on an acre of land for just $50,000. Or… if you really want to go for it… you could invest in a 100-acre coffee/produce farm and eco-resort in San Cristobal de las Casas for $299,000.

With the world’s population skyrocketing, along with the cost of food prices, owning farmland could be one of the smarter investments of the new millennium. Even experts from the WHO (World Health Organization) believe that farmland is one of the best investments you can make. That’s because it’s one of the few hard assets that continues to appreciate.

Editor’s Note: Follow International Living’s editors and correspondents around the world on Facebook and on Twitter. For interviews and further comments, contact Carol Barron.



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