Monday, October 8, 2012

My Prairie Dream

I want to restore farmland to prairie. It may be better to find some remnant prairie and preserve it, since those are turning into crops at a record pace the last few years. But either way, land in the farm belt is pricey--averaging $8,000-$10,000 an acre or thereabouts. So if a person wanted to restore 100 acres--a very very small prairie that could only support a fraction of the native wildlife--it'd cost one million buckaroos.

But here's the dream that's building, and how I hope to sustain it:

100-200 acres of land somewhat near a population center

House with solar, wind, geothermal, cistern (100% off the grid)

Greenhouse

Writing shed


How to Make Money (this is all part time stuff):

Sell native prairie plants and veg at farmer's markets

Have a "dig your own" prairie plant plot

Have several small cabins for 1-2 week writing residencies on the prairie

Create a semi-manicured expanse or garden, with vista of prairie, for weddings

Have an annual music / writing / arts prairie festival

Open the prairie to school groups and other private tours

Hold workshops for sustainable prairie growing and management


It seems like a person would really have to know their stuff to do this (or be just enough insane to jump right in, full of vigor and faith). Choosing the right place seems critical for many reasons, not only the lay of the land, but the location of that land. Even on a prairie a person is not an island, though they may need inordinate amounts of time being lost out there on the ocean of grass.

What would you do? How would you do it? How much would you risk? Looking back on your life, do you wish you'd put in all your chips for just one big thing?

5 comments:

ProfessorRoush said...

Ben, come down to the Flint Hills....tallgrass prairie goes here for much less than that...often still under $1000/acre if it's far enough from town. If you log into the Manhattan paper, there were ads the last two weeks for land auctions in the surrounding counties...lots of land for sale.

In answer to the second part of your question, the only way I know to make that go is to be independently wealthy or have another income (the reason I didn't become a paleontologist instead of a veterinarian). And no, I guess I wouldn't put all chips in one big thing...not a gambling personality.

Diana of Elephants Eye said...

I'm thinking you won't be able to live with yourself, if you don't try. But I'm too cautious to follow that sort of all your eggs in one basket dream.

Sunnyside Dru said...

We are on 13 acres, our neighbors have 14, another 10...we are working to get another friend on the 18 acres that is now on the market...various native plantings at each, increasing more, plenty of space for festivals, retreat space, receptions...it CAN be done! An hour from Baltimore and 2 to Philadelphia and DC: Harrisburg, York, Carlisle, Hershey, Lancaster, Gettysburg...

scottweberpdx said...

That sounds like a dream come true...if you can make people actually appreciate the prairie, you'll have accomplished something that I thought impossible.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Dr. R -- KS is too far south, I'm already adverse to the late summer heat here, and with global warming, it's gonna get worse. Also farther from family, but those are better prices! I may buy a lottery ticket. Someone had to win.
D--we only live one, and we can't take it with us, but we do have the potential to leave great things behind....
SD--That sounds awesome! Of course with 20 acres I'd still be able to hear my neighbor's dogs at 5am.
S--It's not impossible. They are talking about a 6 mile prairie corridor from Lincoln to Spring Creek Prairie in Denton (allbeit in like 20 years). Can you imagine that? Prairie in Nebraska?