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13 Tips for Starting a Hobby Farm

Before we dive in, first things first: What is a hobby farm?

A hobby farm is an agricultural operation that isn’t traditionally run as an “agribusiness.” Hobby farms can, and usually are, self-sustaining, and most generate a profit. However, hobby farms are not the commercial farms covering thousands of acres that you generally think of when you consider a standard farm. Hobby farmlands are typically small in size – between roughly 40 and 100 acres – and many are committed to sustainable agriculture, eco-conscious practices, and fair, friendly animal treatment.

Though they aren’t full-blown commercial farms, hobby farms still require a lot of preparation, work, and financial support to run successfully. Before you decide to pursue such an endeavor, cover your bases:

  1. Determine your farming objectives. What do you want to raise? What do you want to plant? Do you want to be off the grid?
  2. Check out the zoning laws. Land doesn’t necessarily come with “all rights.” To be sure you’ll be able to do what you want with your land, you must look into this. Using a real estate agent well versed in agricultural land law is a sure way to know what you’re getting.
  3. Write a business plan. Strategically develop a vision for your farming operation.
  4. Select appropriate, good quality fencing.
  5. Test your farm’s soil for quality, texture, and contour.
  6. Figure out your water management and pasture management plans.
  7. Determine feeding for livestock (if applicable).
  8. Assess your target market and market to this audience creatively.
  9. Determine your farm equipment needs.
  10. Go green. This can actually save your ag operation money. Limit your expenses by implementing energy conservation tactics that enhance your farm’s efficiency while helping to reduce negative impacts on the environment.
  11. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Reduce costs and support the earth.
  12. Become a sponge for information. Read up on all things farming. Know your pastures (what grows, what doesn’t, what is potentially poisonous, etc.). Network with local farmers and other hobby farmers. Watch. Listen. Question. Learn.
  13. Don’t fear failure. There’s so much to learn! Realize that nothing replaces the real experience of actually following through and starting your farm. Also realize that no matter how much research you do, you will make mistakes. Don’t let mistakes frustrate you too much. Consider them lessons.

 

Need assistance with hobby farmland financing? Contact AgAmerica Lending – an Ag lending company – for information regarding our hobby farm loan and other farm loan services. Info@AgAmerica.com or 844-516-8176.

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Reasons to Invest in Timberland

I’m sure you’ve heard this long-standing saying: “Land—no one can make it.” The implication here is that land is a limited resource. Though limited, it is a resource that is in constant demand, especially as the population and commercial development expands.

As an investment, land offers individuals the opportunity to expand their portfolios with a solid income-producing asset. Sooner or later, purchased land will increase in value. Sure, it won’t do so in a predictable way like a cash savings account building interest, but it will grow in value eventually. As it does, you can use it. You can build on it, farm on it, hunt on it, log on it, and/or use it for recreational purposes. The uses are limitless and the economic advantages are strong.

Sure, you can purchase any land you desire and do with it as you fit, but I’m sure you want to discover wealth-building opportunities.

One such wealth-building option is direct investment in commercial timberland. In fact, timberland investment returns are equal to or better than other asset classes.

How readily available is timberland? Where can you easily purchase it?

Seven-Tenths of U.S. forest lands, or 514.2 million acres of the total 751.2 million acres of forest land, are labeled as timberlands. Timberlands are classified as forest lands used for the production of commercial wood products. Commercial timberland may be used for recurrent growing and harvesting of trees.

Many regions in the United States are especially rich with timberland. For example, the state of Alabama has the third most timberland acreage in the 48 contiguous states, coming in behind Georgia and Oregon. As far as private timberland acreage goes, Alabama comes in second behind Georgia. That being said, Alabama and Georgia are excellent regions to seek out timberland property.

Bottom-line: Timberland is an investment that is in continual demand due to population growth and the need for continued commercial development. As such, it’s a great money-making investment to consider.

AgAmerica Lending offers financing of timberland for investment and/or recreation. Whether you’re looking at 1,000 acres of hunting property or 100 acres managed for pine production, AgAmerica Lending is here to assist you. Contact us with any questions regarding our timberland loans, Alabama land loans, Georgia lands, and other ag loan products. Info@AgAmerica.com or 844-516-8176.

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Florida Lending Continues to Climb

Though Florida interest rates are climbing, lending institutions are not taking a hit. Borrowers are still flowing in, willing and ready.

Here’s the numerical proof: According to recent 2013 data, lending in Florida has increased by $5.8 billion, or 6.5 percent, outdoing the 2.9 percent U.S. gain. That’s a pretty substantial gain.

Florida is clearly enjoying a unique phenomenon. In fact, the state’s banking industry is surpassing the entire nation, outranking all states.

Though mortgage rates are on the rise in Florida, housing demand has not dwindled according to certain indicators, including average sales and inventory trends. Yet, home buying is not the exclusive factor accounting for Florida’s uphill lending trend.

What, then, is fueling Florida’s lending increase?

As mentioned, home buying plays a role, but a very minor one. Not many home buyers are seeking loan assistance. Data suggests that home buying is probably increasing due to a higher percentage of cash purchases due to the higher-priced markets. So, home buying is not a strong game changer in the Florida lending industry. Commercial and industrial lending, credit cards and auto loans, are the proposed game changers strongly accounting for this uphill lending trend. Real estate loan growth, however, has been consistently low.

It’s hard to say how this high-priced market environment will impact banks. On one hand, it will make borrowing more expensive for banks. Yet, banks have the power to counteract this by increasing their loan rates. Striking a balance is necessary, though difficult.

Moral of the story: Florida financial lending intuitions are doing well, amidst an environment that generally limits borrowing. How this will play out long-term is difficult to predict. Yet, so far, so good for lenders and borrowers.

Based in Central Florida, Bankers South Lending & Finance, LLC (“Bankers South”), a Land South Group Company, is a money lender and mortgage investor. Bankers South provides a variety of loan products, including conventional agricultural loans, timberland loans, and commercial farm loans, and non-conventional, fixed or floating-rate bridge loans on asset classes such as Agriculture and Timberland, Residential Development Land, and Transitional Commercial Assets. Contact us for our ag lending services, information on Florida asset-based loans, and more!  

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Cotton Crop Yield Expected to Fall Below Average

Cotton crop yield in Southeast regions – Georgia, Alabama, and Florida – is projected to fall short of previous yield forecasts. But how short? Is it enough for cotton growers to worry?

So far, there is not a concrete answer in response to the yield question. However, while an actual yield prediction has not been ascertained, it is still enough to cause many cotton growers to worry.

What’s the culprit for the probable low yield?

The uncontrollable: Weather.

Various environmental factors were working against the cotton crop this season.

Heavy rainfall prevented cotton growers from planting on schedule. Storms caused excessive fruit shed. Cooler weather stunted growth, even preventing some plants from maturing. Finally, excess moisture created a friendly environment for fungal proliferation.

To counteract this unanticipated fungal growth, cotton growers applied fungicide to battle the fungus causing target spot.

There is great debate on the extent that target spot impacts cotton crop yield. While target spot is perhaps a factor resulting in this year’s projected low yield, heavy storms, which knocked off many plants, are probably the more likely explanation for low cotton yield.

While some of the cotton is still prospering (resulting from late planting), it is quickly running out of optimal 60-degree weather days as the fall season is just around the corner.

As for the final yield assessment, growers will not know for sure until harvesting is complete.

The good news? The cool, wet conditions may allow dry-land cotton to do well compared to previous years.

Are you a cotton grower in Georgia, Alabama, or Florida? If you’d like to discuss your farmland financing options – including agricultural loans and ag farm credit – contact Bankers South Lending & Finance, LLC.

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HLB Research Continues to Restore Florida Citrus Crop

Strategies to Reduce Citrus Greening

Scientists are relentlessly working to curb the continued proliferation of HLB, otherwise known as “citrus greening.” Solutions are slim and the research is moving incredibly slow; however, some findings have offered citrus growers hope amidst the growing HLB devastation, including:

  • Taking a greenhouse approach. Scientists have discovered that heating potted citrus seedlings in greenhouses will kill the HLB bacterium and may rid the seedlings of HLB symptoms for up to two years.
  • Putting tents in the groves. Scientists have discovered that heating HLB-infected trees in the sun by encasing them in solar, plastic “tents” can extend their productivity and resistance to HLB.
  • Growing a wider citrus selection. Adding variety has proven effective. Selections explored fall into the orange-like category, including orange hybrids (with complex lineage) that demonstrate varying degrees of obvious (or possible) resistance to HLB. These selections are incredibly close to the appearance of a typical orange and, in most cases, also taste and smell similar to an orange.
  • Controlling psyllids. Having a zero tolerance policy for psyllids in the grove is key. Regular ground applications, aerial applications, and perimeter sprays around the groves can be an effective approach in keeping psyllids at bay.
  • Protecting young trees. Growers that use neonicotinoids on younger trees have greatly mitigated the risk of HLB.

These results, though promising, are not a cure-all for HLB. The hope is that continued research evaluation, combined with collaborative efforts and research funding, will eventually shed light on a more concrete approach in battling deadly citrus greening.

Before this solution surfaces, however, citrus growers can expect to see a drop in production for 2013-2014, due in part to HLB and other environmental factors (hurricanes, freezes, etc.). So, while huge efforts have been made to control HLB, it is clearly not enough. Scientists and growers most come together, sharing strategies and research, to win the war on HLB.

Are you a Florida citrus grower? Do you need help financing your agricultural land? Contact Bankers South to discuss our citrus loans and other ag loan products.

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Hard Money Loans: 5 Facts Investors Should Know

As a hard money lender, Bankers South offers the Transitional Lending Program for non-conventional, fixed or floating-rate bridge loans on the following asset classes:

  • Agricultural Land and Timberland
  • Residential Development Land
  • Transitional Commercial Assets
    • Office
    • Apartments
    • Industrial
    • Retail
    • Hotels
    • Student Housing
    • Public Storage
    • Medical Offices
    • Existing performing and non-performing loans

It’s important to know that hard money loan lenders operate rather differently than traditional lenders. As private lenders, the terms and guidelines that hard money lenders follow are unique to that particular institution.

Here are some quick, simple facts all borrowers should know regarding hard money loans:

  1. What is a hard money loan? A hard money loan is a loan in which the investor receives financing based on the value of a property as opposed to the traditional lending conditions that banks typically assess such as credit scores, tax returns, and income statements.
  2. What are residential hard money loans? These are short-term bridge loans for investors who need to close swiftly. They are good for real estate acquisitions, refinancing, and foreclosures.
  3. What are the interest rates like as compared to traditional lending? Hard money loans usually carry higher interest rates because hard money lenders are not directly competing with traditional lending sources. However, these loans will usually keep borrowers from going into bankruptcy and foreclosure, thus saving their property.
  4. How secure is the investor? Bankers South hard money loans are secured by a property with 30% -50% equity, so the investor is well protected.
  5. Having difficulty finding traditional financing in time to save your investment property? A hard money loan may be your solution if your credit is less than perfect. Sure, the interest rates are higher, but you have the power to act fast and secure your investment property so you can flip and receive your profit.

 

Do you have more questions on hard money loans? Contact Bankers South Lending & Finance
for additional information regarding our Transitional Lending Program.
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Ag Demand Growing in Florida

Have you heard the news? According to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau figures, Florida is now the fourth most populated state in the United States at 19.3 million people. Who knew? What’s more, the population growth rate is surmised to continue climbing at a lively rate, perhaps surpassing New York in populous by 2016.

But why is Florida agriculture booming in light of this population increase? Isn’t farmland shrinking in size due to increased population and development?

Yes, it is true. Agricultural land in Florida has reduced in size, but maybe not as much as you think. In fact, Florida is still rich in agricultural and rural areas. Sure, you might have to get off the beaten path to realize the abundance of land, but it is most definitely out there and ready to be utilized.

Why the high agricultural land demand?

Agricultural and rural land is still going strong in Florida, even better than expected, because the economic strength and value of the sector promotes its continued strength and success. The demand is currently there and will realize even greater strength and value as Florida’s population expands and there’s more hungry mouths to feed.

While the agricultural land itself might be consolidating and shrinking, its value is not. In fact, more than ever, agriculture is becoming an industry of great importance for future survival. The industry is at a turning point. Urban farming is becoming a thing of the future. Great change in the agricultural industry is on the horizon.

Are you considering purchasing agricultural land in Florida?  Contact AgAmerica Lending, LLC to discuss your Florida farmland financing options. We provide Florida producers and growers a variety of loan products, including conventional agricultural real estate loans. Info@AgAmerica.com or 844-516-8176.

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Research Reveals Natural Bean Pest Remedy

Recently, new findings have surfaced regarding a particular pest which feasts on bean plants. These findings have provided fresh information on how to better manage the proliferation of these relatively new pests.

These particular pests, called kudzu bugs, invade several types of bean plants. Soybean producers are especially impacted. These pests were first spotted in 2009 in two Georgia counties. Unfortunately, Kudzu bugs are highly mobile and, thus, continued to proliferate, invading 10 other Southeast states, including Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi.

To get a handle on these bugs, researchers are heavily investigating the bug’s feeding, mating, and migratory habits. Hopefully, the information collected will shed light on effective strategies to implement to better control the spread of these bean-invading pests.

In July 2013, findings suggested that kudzu bugs may have some competition. A native parasitoid – a parasitic fly – may have the ability to bring down the number of these pests. Research indicated that these parasitic flies feed inside kudzu bug adults, particularly the female bugs. Findings show that the population of these parasitic flies is fairly large, offering an opportunity to effectively reduce the population of kudzu bugs.

Knowledge of this parasite means that there is now a potentially effective way to introduce natural enemies into the fields, allowing nature (versus chemical treatments) to better manage infestations and obliterate kudzu bug populations.

Pest management involves strategy and other, oftentimes costly, practices such as crop rotations, cover crops, field borders and irrigation water management. If you are a farmer seeking to implement a better pest management program, contact AgAmerica Lending to discuss ag loan options. Info@AgAmerica.com or 844-516-8176.

 

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Transitional Lending to Avoid Foreclosure

Are you a developer or land owner at risk for foreclosure or bankruptcy? If so, it’s time to explore your financing options to safeguard your properties.

Losing property is distressing. The financial repercussions are especially poignant. For instance, if you have a foreclosure in your credit history, you will experience great difficulty purchasing additional property down the road.

Fortunately, there are ways in which you can effectively navigate financial challenges to avoid losing your land.

Developers who are in the throes of losing property through foreclosure can find help getting back on track through AgAmerica’s Transitional Lending program. We offer eligible property owners a plan of action in the face of a pending foreclosure. Qualifying developers or land owners can apply for a bridge loan to help them keep up with payments and preserve ownership. This bridge loan will hold developers and property owners over until sales inevitably pick back up. Once they do, owners can then apply for long-term, conventional financing.

Additionally, there are some simple actions land owners can take to better the case for keeping their property. If you are at risk for foreclosure, follow these steps:

  • Do not ignore contact from your bank. If you’re having issues making your payments, get in touch with your lender as soon as possible. Explain your situation. Be ready to provide them with financial information, such as loan documents, tax returns, etc. Without this information, they may not be able to assist you.
  • Do not desert your property. You may not qualify for assistance if you abandon your property.

 

If you need help with a pending foreclosure on vacant land or other collateral,AgAmerica lending’s Transitional Lending Program is your source for professional, trust-worthy assistance! We will meet with you and explain all foreclosure prevention strategies available to you to save your property and stay on track. Info@AgAmerica.com or 844-516-8176.

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Georgia’s Blueberry Crop is Growing Strong

When you think about Georgia agriculture what comes to mind? Peaches? Most likely. But blueberries? When did that happen?

Georgia tapped into the global blueberry market a little over 10 years ago and the state has since become a competitive player. This past season’s crop was projected to produce an astoundingly impressive amount, racking up 70 million pounds of blueberries from nearly 20,000 acres of orchards. In fact, blueberry production has thoroughly surpassed peach production. The Peach State now makes more money off of its blueberry crop, which is 3 times more valuable.

Harvesting the crop has been a good move for many farmers, especially growers that were experiencing difficulties with other crops, such as tobacco.

Why blueberries?

Blueberries have grown in demand among health-conscious consumers. Positive coverage coupled with heavy research on blueberries and their health, healing, and antioxidant properties is responsible for the burst of blueberry acreage in Georgia.

This sudden increase of Georgia’s blueberry crop is difficult to keep up with for federal observances. The USDA reports 14,000 acres of Georgia Blueberries, but the actual amount is probably closer to 20,000. The expectation is that the crop will continue proliferating, increasing to 24,000 to 26,000 acres within the next few years.

Competing states – New Jersey, Florida, and Michigan – are beginning to harvest the crop, emulating Georgia’s success. Georgia, however, enjoys an advantage, claiming the longest season in the U.S. lasting from mid-April through the end of July to delight in fresh Georgia Blueberries, dubbed “Sweet Georgia Blues.”

The Georgia Department of Agriculture is very supportive of all blueberry-growing initiatives, even going so far as to form a Georgia Blueberry Commission. This program, founded in 2009, was designed to support research, education, and promotion on behalf of the state’s blueberry growers.

I think it’s safe to say: Goodbye, Peach State; hello, Blueberry State.

Georgia landowner? Blueberry grower? Do you wish to convert your current land for blueberry harvesting? Contact AgAmerica Lending regarding Georgia farm credit options and agricultural financing solutions.

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