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Designing a Wild Home

How to Efficiently Clear Your Land

Megan Wild

Clearing overgrown vegetation doesn’t have to be difficult.

Neglected land doesn’t waste time reverting to a mess of weeds and other vegetation. Clearing it can seem like a daunting task. How long it takes for you to clear that acreage depends on how many and what types of plants have overtaken the area. It also depends on what you want to do with the land.

With the right tools and a little time, clearing that tangle of plants can be easy and stress-free. Below are five things to consider when clearing your land of unwanted vegetation:

1. Plan Your Project

The first step in clearing your land is knowing what you’re going to do with it. Planning helps you determine how much time the project could take and what tools you’ll need. If you have a wooded area with lots of trees but only plan on putting a hiking trail through it, that will take a lot less time compared to chopping down all the trees to create cropland.

If you have lots of trees on your acreage that you plan on cutting down, you’ll need equipment to help ease wood removal. One of these machines may include a hydraulic thumb, which helps lift felled trees and other heavy materials. Check with local businesses to see if someone can install your hydraulic thumb to make your job that much easier.

Should your task involve the removal of trees, consider contacting a landscaper, greenhouse, or someone from an agriculture extension office to see if any of those trees have value. You might be able to make some extra money selling the trees to a company that uses them.

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2. Calculate the Costs

Once you’ve created your land plan, then you can figure out what equipment you’ll need for your project. If you own some of the equipment, your expenses will be lower. If you must rent equipment or purchase it, your budget could see a substantial increase. Costs associated with clearing land vary from project to project.

At this point, you might consider accepting bids from companies to do the work for you — it could save you both time and money, especially if you’re selling wood from your property or working on other projects across your homestead.

However, there’s nothing wrong with doing the job yourself, either. If you’re passionate about doing this do-it-yourself (DIY) project, keep in mind that you may experience unexpected setbacks, like equipment failures and repair costs, as well as longer removal times.

3. Begin With the Big Stuff

No matter what you’re doing with your land, whether it’s a complete clear-out or just creating a path for hikers, beginning with the big stuff will give your project a smooth start. Remove any large trees or stumps first, so that the smaller vegetation is easier to access with your equipment.

If you’ve decided to sell your trees and stumps, you’ll have to get them ready for transport. Or, if you’re handling the wood yourself, you can either put the trees through a chipper or chop it for firewood.

4. Break Out the Equipment

After clearing the thick, heavy undergrowth, you can work on getting rid of smaller vegetation. This step is where mowers, trimmers, and other equipment comes in handy. The size and height of the remaining ground cover will decide which machine is best for their removal, but having the right equipment ensures the job is effective and efficient.

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5. Prepare the Area

Once you’ve cleared the remaining vegetation, then you’re ready to setup your land. If you’ve decided the acreage is ideal for crops, you’ll need to rototill the area, so it gets infused with nitrogen and other nutrients for a prosperous, first-year yield. After the land’s prepared, you can plant at your convenience.

If you’ve just cleared a path for hikers, you may consider smoothing the area and removing any tripping hazards, such as plants or leftover roots that are growing over the walkway, so it’s easy to hike on. For any other plans for the area, like a shop for your equipment, prepare the land to best suit your needs.

It doesn’t take long for an area to become overgrown. Being able to use all your land for whatever purposes you have in mind requires a little bit of planning and work, but the results are well worth the time, sweat, and money.

Choosing the Best Truck for Your Homestead

Megan Wild 

In the last 20 years, we've watched the pickup truck evolve from a vehicle built for doing work to a high-riding commuter car. These days, it's hard to find a full-sized truck that doesn't come leather-lined with a 16-speaker stereo; and while luxury features are nice to have, some of us still need our trucks to do work.

As a homesteader, you learn better than most the value of a truck that can both get the job done and function as a commuter. When you’re running a small farm, every piece of equipment must be able to more than pay for itself, so choosing the right truck is important.

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Know What You Want

The beauty of a pickup truck is its versatility. The truck's ability to perform a multitude of tasks is what has made these vehicles a standard of homesteads and ranches for decades. That's still true today, but with so many options on the market, which is the right truck for you?

Depending on what you want to spend, you might pursue a new or used truck. From there, it’s time to decide what size truck you’re looking for. A full-sizer will be able to haul a bigger payload and tow heavier equipment, but will require more fuel and maintenance. A midsized truck might not have the power to pull large equipment, but if that's not on your to-do list, a smaller truck may prove the more economical solution.

Fuel type is important, too. Many homesteaders prefer to use diesel trucks because they are known to be reliable and torquey. That makes them ideal for tough jobs, allows them to run longer on a single tank, and reduces maintenance costs.

Utility Trucks and Special Features

If you're looking for a vehicle that will function solely as a homesteading tool and won't spend time on highways, it's a good idea to consider an ATV or utility truck. These purpose-built utility vehicles are often more affordable than a road-going pickup. They are available in gas, diesel, and electric models, and can often be customized for specific tasks.

Those who require the grunt of a full-sized truck should take a moment to check out the features offered by utility vehicles like the Marauder line from Reading. These trucks pack all of the features you might find on something from Ford, Chevy or Dodge into a work-specific package with a few extra tricks up its sleeve.

For example, you can select from many different body styles when you purchase from Reading, including dump trucks, enclosed utility trucks, and platform/landscape bodies. They feature galvanized steel bodies and practical features like a standard backup alarm, so you don't catch a farm hand off-guard while reversing in difficult terrain.

Four vs. Two-Wheel Drive

Truck buyers often seek out four-wheel-drive models that include flashy upgrades like upgraded suspension and big tires. However, you should consider going with a two-wheel-drive truck unless you actually require the added traction.

Farm vehicles don't typically need to grapple with the kind of terrain four-wheel drive is made to overcome during everyday tasks. The added weight of another drive axle and transfer case will translate into higher fuel and maintenance costs, and if you're going to tow, a truck with a lower ride height will perform better.

The additional features that are often standard on four-wheel-drive trucks can drive prices above what you might be willing to pay, and that cost will be carried forward in the maintenance of the four-wheel-drive system. If a simpler two-wheel-drive truck can do the job, it's probably your safest bet.

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Favorite Choices

If you're going to stick with the mass-market, it's best to stick with the “big three” for full-sized pickups. Ford's F-150 is extremely capable, but expensive, and No. 2 competitor Chevy Silverado is very similar. Ram trucks compare favorably in cost and are available in many configurations.

Finding diesel power is easy with full-sized trucks. However, if you’re in the used market, it’s important to avoid a potential maintenance nightmare. Many full-sizers are listed at attractive prices, but have high mileage and have suffered hard lives. Avoid the heartache and spend a little more now to save later.

Japan is still king of the midsized truck with the Toyota Tacoma, but their lead is diminishing.  The new third-generation truck gives up some power and luxury features to the Chevy Colorado, and Ford is rumored to be bringing back the Ranger midsizer soon. Of course, if you have the need for a utility truck or ATV, options for you are different.

Few midsized trucks are offered with diesel power. Currently, the Colorado is your only option, but there are whispers that Toyota is bringing a new diesel motor to the Tacoma line soon — that could be a game-changer for the midsized truck market. These trucks are easier to buy used, since many have had lives as strictly commuter vehicles.

Treat It Well, and Your Truck Will Thank You

Whatever you choose, the secret to getting the most from a good truck is preventive maintenance. Modern trucks are built incredibly well, so spend the time and money to put fresh oil in, care for your suspension, and cover the little things, and you're likely to get a lifetime of hard work from a quality pickup.

7 Tips for Preparing Your Farm for Fall Festivals

Megan Wild

Autumn is a lovely time of year and the perfect season to host outdoor festivals to celebrate. Are you considering hosting a fall festival on your farm or homestead but not sure where to start or even what all is involved in the planning process? If so, it’s not as difficult as you may think.

Good planning is the key to hosting a successful festival and keeping your grounds safe. With a few tips, you can make the process simpler.

Consider Your Objectives

Decide what type of festival you are hosting. Will it be just for kids or the entire family? Is it best to charge for each game and activity or a flat fee to enter the festival? You’ll need to know these answers to create a budget and stick to it.

Start gathering volunteers and hold a meeting with leaders to answer these questions. Input from others on the team is a great way to brainstorm to decide on a theme and age-appropriate activities. Meetings also ensure everyone is on the same page so the entire process runs smoothly.

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Decide on Time and Place

Once you know what type of festival you want to plan, you’ll have a better idea of how much room you’ll need and the best hours of operation. Whether you host the event on your homestead or another person volunteers, you need to consider how to protect the ground from damage. A good option is to consider installing geotextiles, which can protect your land from the extra stress. Geotextiles are permeable fabrics that provide strength by separating a foundation from the underlying soil.

During a festival, foot traffic alone can take a toll on the ground, as can other aspects of the festival such as food trucks, stages, and other structures for activities. You’ll need to choose a protection that acts as a boundary while providing structural support to heavily used areas of the grounds.

Discuss How Best to Manage the Festival

Hosting a festival involves a lot of planning and details. Choose volunteers and others who have strong skills in project management to assist with food, games, advertising, and donations. It’s often best to have sub-committees to make sure each aspect has its own dedicated group to get the job done.

Choose one person with strong organizational and leadership skills to head each committee. You can decide how many groups and volunteers you’ll need based on the size of your event.

Recruit Volunteers

You’ll need volunteers to help run the various activities and help with food stands, so start recruiting as early as possible. Consider creating an online signup sheet to help you find those interested in offering their time. Students who need to accumulate service hours for graduation often make good volunteers.

Include the various categories that you need volunteers for, such as setting up, clean up, entertainment, and other activities. Look into learning more about recruiting volunteers to make your festival a big success.

Discuss Buying or Making Games

One big question is whether you’ll be making activities from scratch or buying carnival games from a supplier. This can easily be answered if you’re on a tight budget — you’ll need to create your own.

Keep in mind, though, that there are a number of suppliers online where you can find affordable games, prizes, and other supplies for your event if it’s within your budget.

If not, your only limitations to creating fun, homemade festival games are your creativity, resources, and volunteers. You can still create a lot of fun activities, even when funds are limited.

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Plan Your Menu

Food is often overlooked because of the hype over activities, but you need to plan what types of foods you’ll offer and at what price. You’ll have to decide who is in charge of making food or buying supplies.

Will you offer more snack foods and treats, such cotton candy, hot cider, popcorn and candy apples, or do you want to allow vendors to bring in food trucks? The type of foods and supplies depends on what your committee decides is best based on the projected attendance and type of event.

Come Up with Marketing Ideas

Any successful event depends on a good marketing strategy. One good channel for family events is the school system. Sending flyers to local schools is a great way to get the word out to families in your community. Local churches are another great place to place flyers and gain attendees for your event.

If it’s within your budget, place an ad in the local paper as well. The key is to start creating buzz about the event weeks ahead of time, so the news is out there and people are discussing well in advance.

Fall festivals do take a great deal of planning to create a fun and safe event for everyone; but, with good planning and a little effort, you and your volunteers can host a successful event.

Essential Summer Barn Roof Maintenance Tips

Megan Wild 

Most people understand the importance of maintaining the roof on their home, but if you have a barn, its roof can be easy to overlook. This is probably because you don’t live in the barn, but if you have livestock, they need a good roof over their heads, too.

Use some of the same maintenance tips you use for maintaining your home’s roof to take proper care of your barn roof.

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Common Barn Roof Problems

Depending on the type roof your barns has, you need to watch for certain problems that can arise.

Wood Shingles: Some older barns still have wood shingles, often under other roofing material. Water is the biggest enemy of wood shingles and they require proper ventilation to remain dry. Once damaged, roofs with wooden shingles require a total replacement.

Metal Roofing: Barns often have metal roofing because it’s highly durable. The main enemies of metal roofing are rust and wind damage. Nails can come loose if metal sheets are lifted by the wind, so look for this during roof inspections.

Asphalt Roofing: This is the least durable option, but asphalt is a good choice for do-it-yourself repairs such as replacing loose or broken shingles and repairing small holes. This doesn’t mean you can skimp on the inspection, though. It’s still best to find small problems and fix them right away. Once this type of roof begins to leak, you should plan on replacing the entire roof.

Slate Roofs: This type of roofing can last a long time because you can do your own repairs, and it’s more economical to go that route as opposed to replacing the roof. Broken or missing slates require repair or replacement.

Carrying out some simple summer maintenance can help you with the upkeep of your barn roof, no matter what type of roofing you have.

Check for Leaks

It’s important to check your barn roof for leaks. One simply way to do this is to walk through your barn during a heavy rainstorm, or during a sunny day looking for pinholes of light peeking through the ceiling.

Binoculars are a good tool to use for finding trouble spots on the roof if you’re squeamish about getting up on the roof itself. Pay close attention to areas that are most likely to fail, like the eaves and ridges, or where valleys form in the roof. Also, look for algae or dark spots that can indicate pest damage.

Just as you would do for the roof on your home, inspect your barn roof three times a year as seasons change.

Check Fasteners

While inspecting, look for any loose fasteners, like nails or screws, on metal roofing. If you find problems, tighten or replace those using similar fasteners.

Keep in mind when replacing fasteners that you should only place them on the raised areas of the roof. Putting fasteners on the lower areas of the roof can lead to rust and pooling of water.

Clear Debris From Roof

Spring rains and storms can bring strong winds that blow debris onto your barn roof. Summer is the perfect time to go up on the roof to clear the clutter. You can also use a power washer to clear your roof of debris. It’s much easier to inspect if there is nothing hiding potential problem areas.

Wet leaves and other debris can also lead to moss growth. This is because moss grows in areas where the roof is shaded and damp — more sun reaching the roof reduces chances of moss.

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Trim Trees Near the Roof

Trim limbs growing close enough to hang over the roof and cause problems. Depending on the type of tree, it may drip sap, or small animals could use the limbs to gain access to the roof and the barn to make a home. Leaves can drop on the roof in the fall, so it’s best to take care of overhanging limbs in summer.

Summer storms and overhanging limbs are a combined threat to your roof. One strong storm could send a limb crashing down into the roof and through the barn. Barns often have aluminum or metal roofs, and constant rubbing of trees against the roof can lead to dents and loose fasteners. For these reasons, trim any overgrown trees near your barn.

The roof of any structure is its defense against the elements, so it’s important to maintain it. It doesn’t take much time to check for problems and do a few tasks to prevent future damage. These steps will save you both time and money on future repairs. 

Best Practices for Field Drainage

Megan WildAs a farmer, you depend on your land to provide you with crops. Your livelihood and survival rely on it. Your job is not easy, and you’re often at the mercy of the elements, most of which you have no control over. However, one aspect of farming you have a little control over is how well your soil drains.

Soil that doesn’t drain properly can have major impacts on your crops, stifling their growth cycle and giving poor yield. But wet soils can also make it difficult for you to conduct your work in the field because the soil can’t support your equipment, thus throwing off your timing for general maintenance of the plants or harvesting.

Good soil for crops has a mix of nutrients and the ability to hold water and organic matter. Loam is the best type of soil to have. With its mix of silt, sand, and clay, it has the perfect balance of everything you need to successfully grow crops. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have such perfect soil.

Even if you aren’t blessed with perfect soil, you can still be successful. Taking time to ensure your soil has the proper ingredients and drains correctly will help you grow crops and could improve crop yields. Below are a few things you can do to help your field drain properly.

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1. Conduct a Soil & Field Analysis

One of the best ways to understand exactly what is going on with your soil is to have it analyzed. This will allow you to see exactly how many nutrients are in the soil, along with the pH value and the humus content. It will also help you determine the amount of fertilizer you’ll need to ensure productive crops.

Analyzing your field can also show you whether or not you have dry spots or areas where water pools. Trimble provides a farm drainage solution system which compiles your field data so you can increase crop yields by up to 30%, which makes it worth the investment. Once you’ve determined how your soil drains, you can then make an informed decision on the best methods to improve drainage in the field.

2. Determine Your Drainage Needs

Once you’ve conducted your soil analysis, you can decide what type of drainage system your field needs. Of course, if your soil is incredibly dry and compacted, you’ll need to look into a watering system or irrigation to keep your crops watered.

If you have areas where water pools or doesn’t drain sufficiently, this can have an impact on small plants and how they grow. There are two types of drainage that can be applied to your field.

  • Surface drainage: As its name suggests, this type of drainage removes excess water from the surface of your field. It is often done using shallow ditches and sloping your field so the water runs into these drains.
  • Subsurface drainage: This drainage system removes excess water from the plants’ roots, which can suffocate the roots and the microorganisms that live in the soil. Too much water can also cause the roots to rot. To remove the water with subsurface drains, deep ditches or pipes are often used.

When deciding what type of drainage system to apply to your field, keep in mind that fixing only one area at a time may lead to issues in other areas, so you need to consider the best way to fix the entire field.

3. Determine What Will Fit Into Your Budget

Having a field that drains properly is important to ensure that you produce healthy, bountiful crops, but drainage systems can be a huge investment. Once you’ve determined what you’ll need to ensure your field drains properly, you’ll need to decide if the amount you spend on the system, both in labor and materials, will give you a return on your investment.

Depending on the size of your field and how much yield you expect to get out of it, there may be more cost-effective ways to ensure your soil has the proper amount of water to ensure plant health and growth. If your soil has poor drainage, there are things you can add to it to help it retain water, including perlite, compost and mulch, in addition to others.

Many different elements go into farming, and having soil that is optimal for growing crops is one of the biggest factors that will determine if you are successful or not. Ensuring your soil has the proper ingredients and drains properly will get you one step closer to producing abundant crops.

Foundations That Are the Best Options for Your Farmhouse

Megan WildWhether you’re buying, building, or renovating a farmhouse, the first place to start is the foundation. If you’re rebuilding, you might get lucky and be able to keep the foundation that’s already in place. But if it’s sustained damage or you’re are starting from scratch, then you need to choose your foundation.

The foundation you get depends on what you need. When deciding what kind of foundation to choose for your farmhouse, you must factor in a number of things, including the weather, your needs, your family, and the topography of where you live. There are many options, so choose carefully.

This is your home, or it will be, so don’t make these crucial decisions on your own — consult with the contractor. They should be able to recommend the best options and let you choose from there. Here’s some info on five of your best options:

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Basement Foundation

If you need extra storage or living space, a basement foundation might be the solution for you. If you do create a finished basement, then you’ll have effectively doubled your floor space. A basement foundation is also the deepest option for a foundation. If you live in the Midwest, especially in hurricane valley, you’ll want a safe, underground space.

Once you decide on a basement, you have further options. For example, you can have a regular basement, which is completely underground. This is an excellent option for anyone at risk of tornadoes or hurricanes.

In areas where high winds aren’t an issue, a daylight basement is a good option. It’s built into a slope, so part of the basement is below ground while the other part is above. You can put in doors and windows to the outside, which can help increase natural light and airflow.

Footing and Stem Wall

A footing and stem-wall foundation is similar in construction to a foundation with a basement. The difference is that it won’t exactly be an “open floor plan.” The footings are being buried deep into the ground like a basement, but their exact height and width will vary depending on the terrain. They’re built to the appropriate height to support the slab.

Once the footings are built, you can choose what kind of finishing you’d like. A slab is one option, which is a great, basic choice for anyone who wants ease and simplicity. The other option is to have a crawlspace. Crawlspaces are less expensive than a full basement, but they can lead to moisture problems. However, you can seal up the crawlspace and prevent this issue altogether.

Precast Concrete

For a simpler solution, precast concrete might do the trick. Typically, precast concrete is done for the walls of a full basement foundation. It has some pretty impressive benefits for the walls as well, especially when compared to traditional cinder blocks. For one thing, it’s a lot faster to install. Each wall section is manufactured offsite and has built-in concrete footing and concrete studs to make it load-bearing.

Precast concrete is typically a lot faster than other methods. The concrete that’s used tends to be a higher density than concrete poured on-site, which makes it stronger and more water tight. Because they are stronger, they tend to have low maintenance and life cycle costs, which is a further advantage. With less costs to shell out in the future, you’ll end up with a foundation that costs less in the long run.

Raised Foundation

A raised foundation isn’t necessary for every home, and it might be a bit strange to have one on a farmhouse, but it is an option. Raised foundations are usually what you see at the beach, where homes are raised off the ground to prevent damage from flooding. If you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes, then a raised foundation might be the best option.

On the flip side, this is not a good choice if you’re concerned about tornadoes. It makes your home less stable against such forces and with almost no added benefit. Foundations need to both support the home and protect against moisture, which can be a tricky combination that far off the ground.

This is a more technical option, so make sure you have a contractor who is familiar with them.

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Permanent Wood Foundation

Wood foundations have been around for a long time. They were actually popular in the 1960s and are now being recommended again for crawlspaces and basements. They’re made from plywood and lumber that’s been treated with a preservative.

The wood is lightweight and waterproof, but they don’t tend to last as long as concrete foundations. But, if you plan to sell the farmhouse in the future, this could be a great idea.

No matter what you choose, there are plenty of options. You’ll have different ones no matter what you need or where you live, so it just comes down to what you envision for your farmhouse. What works best for your situation might be a basement or just simple, precast concrete.

8 Tips for Leasing Land for Events

Megan WildLeasing your land for outdoor events can be beneficial. Owning a farm means owning lots of land. For most of the year, your land is used to grow crops. When the growing season is over, it might not serve a purpose. What if you could do something with your land during the off season or during rotation, so you’re earning revenue instead?

Leasing your land for outdoor events could be a beneficial prospect. After all, Woodstock was held on a dairy farm, and that turned out mostly all right. With a little planning and foresight you can overcome the problems that Woodstock incurred and create a memorable and comfortable experience for guests.

There are many elements to consider when leasing your land for outdoor events, and the following tips will help you through the process.

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1. Make Sure You Have the Proper Permits

Depending on what type of event you want to host, you must make sure you obtain the proper permits. Without them, your event will be shut down immediately, which can lead to unhappy people and extreme embarrassment.

2. Educate Yourself on Local Ordinances

Every town has noise ordinances, and you should know yours. It’s possible that noise is prohibited after a certain time, so if you’re planning a music event you’ll need to know how late the bands can play.

You’ll also need to know what fire and safety codes are required, along with whether there are restrictions on how many tickets you can sell, how much seating you can offer, and what type of advertising you’re allowed to do. You can find these answers by talking to local and state authorities, as well as your local fire and police departments.

3. Plan the Layout and Logistics

Where will everything be set up? Are you going to have vendors? If so, where do you want them? If it’s a music festival, where will you position the stage? What about access to restroom facilities? A map of where everything should go will help keep setup and takedown simple, as well as help maintain an orderly flow of people through your property.

Knowing how the event will be set up allows you to know what type of equipment you’ll need, such as generators to help power the event, and where it needs to be placed.

4. Make Sure Your Guests Will Be Comfortable

You can’t control the weather at outdoor events. If you’re planning an event that will take place rain or shine, you should make sure there are tents or awnings to keep guests cool or dry. Make sure water is available throughout the venue to keep people hydrated.

It is also incredibly important to have enough sanitation and restroom facilities for guests. Nothing makes an event more miserable than not having enough bathrooms. You may also need to think about taking care of pests in the area. You can call an exterminator or make repellents available to guests.

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5. Keep Certain Areas Well Lit

If the event goes late into the night, it’s important to have lit paths and exits so guests can safely find their way out of the venue. The parking area should be lit, if possible.

6. Communicate

Communication is crucial between you and those helping you put on the event. You need to ensure that everything is running smoothly and properly. If it’s not, you’ll need to be able to have someone to fix the problem quickly. Communication will also come in handy if a guest needs medical attention or other assistance.

7. Insurance

It may be prudent to obtain insurance for your outdoor event. Doing so will help protect you, your land, and the guests. There are various places to find insurance, including online.

8. Cleanup

Once the event is over and the guests are gone, you have to clean up your site. If you’re going to be using the land for farming again, you’ll have to restore it to pre-event condition. You may want to have a local sanitation company help with your cleanup efforts.

Leasing your farm land for an outdoor event can be a lot of work, but there are plenty of benefits to the process, one of which includes extra income.