Assessing Rural Life
Why own an acreage?
- Additional space, privacy and quiet?
- More diverse landscape, better view or to observe wildlife?
- Provide a better environment and/or smaller school for children?
- Establish a location for a home-based business?
- Have space for gardens, animals and pets?
- Other reasons
Before making the decision, several matters should be thoroughly investigated. Unless at least one family member has experienced living in a rural area, the chances for an easy transition are not good. In many cases, urbanites discover (sometimes too late) that there are some aspects of rural life that fall short of their expectations when compared to the conveniences available in the city. It will take a very thorough evaluation on the part of the entire family to determine if their lifestyle is going to fit into this new environment. Those who find that rural living does not measure up to their expectations may want to think twice about moving to the country. It is far better to discover these facts in time to avoid making a costly mistake if rural life is not for you.
Here are a few important issues to consider in making that important decision:
SAFETY: Law enforcement outside of city limits belongs basically to the county sheriff. Some small towns also contract the services of the sheriff's patrol. Although some people will argue that rural areas are generally safer from crime, reduced coverage and longer response to calls create a concern for many acreage owners. Some acreage owners overcome this deficiency with modern security systems.
SCHOOLS: This is probably the single greatest concern of parents with children. They need to know about a school's credibility, curriculum, disciplinary policies and educational opportunities. This investigation should involve more than just checking the distance to and the outside appearance of the school.
TRANSPORTATION: In nearly every situation, living in the country will require more transportation than living in an urban area. It will result in more time and expense in getting to work, school, church, shopping, entertainment, etc. In many rural school districts, buses are provided to transport students to school. If bus transportation is not provided, additional vehicles may be needed for kids who are old enough to drive to school. Kids not old enough to possess a driver's license may require someone to transport them. County road surfaces are often maintained less frequently and snow removal can be a problem in rural neighborhoods where the county is able to provide only minimal service. Those who expect all county roads to have the same priority as major highways will be greatly disappointed.
FIRE AND RESCUE: Most rural communities rely on their organized volunteer fire and rescue units for these services. Because of the large areas these units have to cover, response times to an emergency may be longer than in the city. The volunteers for these units are generally local residents. People in the area have to be willing to donate their time to provide these essential services. There is no better way, however, to become accepted as a member of a community than to work as a volunteer.
COST OF LIVING: Even though rural property taxes may be less compared with equivalent urban properties, acreage owners may actually find it more expensive to live in the country than in the city. Capital costs of water supply, waste disposal and transportation are usually much higher. Maintenance expense for snow removal, landscapes, driveways, etc., is also usually higher than in municipalities. Financial planning and management are primary factors in being able to meet short-term and long-term needs of acreage owners. Those who do not have sound financial plans generally fail to meet their goals.
TIME COMMITMENT: Those who have never lived in the country may fail to realize the time needed to properly manage an acreage. Generally the acreage family will attempt to maintain the entire acreage themselves. This may include many activities or enterprises not previously available to them, such as gardening, raising animals, horseback riding, etc. People who do not have enough spare time may become frustrated with the additional time needed to care for an acreage. On the other hand, those who enjoy doing all the tasks required to maintain an acreage will consider it to be a good investment.
ENVIRONMENT: Recognize that production agriculture can and usually does generate dust, odors and noise that should be realized and expected in many situations.
Source: Adapted for Lancaster County, Nebraska from A Place in the Country: The Acreage Owner's Guide (EC97-2506C).