Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Farming + Survival‏

Hi Ferfal, I have enjoyed reading your posts for a couple of years now. I justwanted to quickly share some of my family's experience with farming andsurvival to support your point about how risky it is. My father's familycame to Canada from Italy in 1955. They lived in the mountains, a veryrural area, but only 1.5 hours from Rome with today's highway. The postWWII decade was very difficult, a real struggle to survive in ruralItaly. Any farming activity required money and at this time there wasnone. For example, you want to raise chickens? How will you pay fortheir food? They could grow plenty of vegetables, but not enough to keepeveryone fed. There were absolutely no jobs either to supplement income.Many families were literally starving. My grandmother told me stories ofhow they would eat anything they could get there hands on: cats, dogs,owls. (Even when they came to Canada, it was hard to shake this mindset.One time they picked up a dead rabbit killed on the road.) By around1960 or so the Italian economy was booming again, and there was plentyof work and the government could afford to spend money helping farmers.But during the decade before many thousands of families had alreadyleft. What choice did they have if their children were starving? Now inCanada the Italians of rural origin are one of the richest communitiesbecause they abandoned farm life. Instead they focused on using theirother rural skills to start businesses like stone work, construction,paving, building development. Those types of business you can build andgrow every year, whereas a farm is unpredictable. Thank you for your great blog. I wish you all the best.

Thanks for your email Marc. My family's story is somewhat similar, but taking place in Franco's Spain. Hard times indeed.



Don Williams said...

Somewhat off topic, Ferfal, but here is a Wall Street Journal article on real estate investments which are proving to be profitable during this recession. Some are similar to your past recommendations.


(For your non-USA readers, the Wall Street Journal is the USA's primary business newspaper --similar to London's Financial Times.)

ghpacific said...

Hola Ferfal, just found your blog and I am reading every one of your posts. I lived in Ecuador from 1968-1972 and remember hearing about the massacres of students in Chile as well. Ecuador was relatively quiet then although there were students trying to implement some changes there also. I am confused though about the current state of things in Argentina. Can you please post a quick synopsis of the current state of things? I am freaking a bit today as another friend just lost her job and prospects are worsening here in the Estados Unidos. I worked for an Argentinian expatriate at a Civil Engineering firm several years ago and overheard him talking to his folks in BA about watching their spending. Anyway thanks for the heads up. Between Japan and Argentina, I don't know which way we are heading, only that it's inevitable.

Anonymous said...

"the Wall Street Journal is the USA's primary business newspaper"

hA - That rag is a lying mouth piece of the government and cannot be trusted for squat.

student apartments? Haven't you heard? There's a bubble in student tuition, and it's crashing along with housing. Student loan payments are made via home equity loans which rely on housing going up forever and that pony aint going nowhere like it did before.

Might there be a glut of self storage coming online and facing the same cliff commercial real estate is? It doesn't take much to see where self storage rates are headed as a result.

"There are risks, of course. The biggest: oversupply resulting from a drop in enrollment or a building spike, which could increase vacancies and reduce rents...

As with other multifamily properties, older student developments tend to have more upside potential than newer ones because owners can renovate them and boost rents"

Rents are capped by wages, and by the ability of homeowers to extract home equity.

The railroad rights-of-way's profit pyramid seems to be based on residential and commercial real estate too.

"Parking facilities carry other advantages: Owners have the ability to raise rates on short notice..."
Uh, yeah, and people can walk.

Two comments from the article:

Oh my WSJ, please give me advice that never fails, a tip, a small trinket of your perfect intellect as a token for my unwavering loyalty. I so do depend upon you for my all and shall be eternally grateful. All knowing, all seeing, all telling, most high of printed Temporary Opinion.

This is just plant story...the people that bought these kinds of property did so to hold land until they could sell at higher prices...oops...real estate market fell apart and these are no longer good investments and it doesn't look so hot to be holding on to assets going down in value and paying property taxes and fewer paying customers

This story is just trying to create another sucker market...if you read it in a financial publication...the real story is not being told...

I know people holding parking lot assets...can't get rid of them....and business is down...

This whole article seems to be a plug for seeking the Greater Fool, as they say on HBB.

Anonymous said...

Agreed with Anon: WSJ is a gov't shill rag promoting the "greater fool" syndrome. Forget the WSJ. Yuck.

Anonymous said...

Three noble truths:

Regardless of how one rates farming as an activity or farmland as an investment:

1. Farming is not a skill that the average frustrated suburbanite can just pick up, especially if he or his long-suffering family wants to actually survive doing nothing but farming.

2. By the same token, appraising farm land, whether for investment or survivalistic-type purposes, is not something you can just do, or learn from a book or an MBA course.

My (uneducated) grandfather was good at it and made money. My (overeducated) self knows his limitations.

3. This does not mean that you or I cannot learn the skills required to farm or invest in farmland. However, there is a steep learning curve involved, especially if you are learning as you go along and want to actually survive on your "wits."

Shambhala said...

Dearest Anons,

I've found the WSJ to be quite good. No one's predictions are 100% accurate, so saying that the WSJ promotes schemes or is a government mouthpiece is quite inaccurate.

Anonymous said...

Hey I am not sure how great student apartments are of an investment for the little guy. I live less than a mile from UCLA and even though it starts this week there are "for Lease" signs and flags everywhere, even right across the street from campus. I have seen vacancy signs before but never right before September. In the past these apartments were rented out for the following school year in April..

Anonymous said...

The same Wall St. Journal that cheered on the housing bubble for years and downplayed the dangers of things like neg am home equity withdraw lifestyles, or ignored and denied those who said - based on the facts - housing was over-built, over-priced and headed towards a fall? And they are Still talking up real estate as if they have a clue, which it seems they don't based on the above story.

That paper sure does read like a scheme promoter and government mouthpiece.

I like how this woman puts things, Shambhala:

“Perhaps you analysis is erroneous there, because you assume
those distortions are aimed at bamboozling well-read and savvy readers. They aren’t.

They’re intended to establish the boundaries of polite discourse, beyond which it will/should not stray. These boundaries will establish where academic writers will go and who will or won’t be referenced…from wikipedia to journals.


Do you think farmers will ever read anything like this in the WSJ?:

College on $11 a Day (or Less)


"Obviously, the Media don’t print what they are ordered–”asked politely”–not to print, as we have seen over and over again."