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Old 02.08.2019, 13:08
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"Hobby farming" or "smallholding" - anyone have experience?

Husband and I are starting the process of looking for a home, which entails also the larger process of deciding whether to settle here or go "back home" (for me) to small-town USA to be near my family.

Because of the (probably obvious) emotional complications on our families' sides, it's hard for us to talk much about this with our respective families. Not a whole lot of neutrality going on there, ha! We're mainly looking at what in the US would be called an acreage; that is, a modest home with some outbuildings and land and the potential to have a large vegetable garden, several dogs and chickens as a bare minimum, with the dream including some goats and a couple of horses (though how attainable that is remains to be seen, via research etc).

As part of the research process I'm interested in hearing from anyone who has experience with this sort of thing—in Switzerland or elsewhere even. We've actually found a property within a good commuting range for my husband that is still in a reasonably good spot for me should my teaching career actually get off the ground here (looking to work part time while starting our family). The property as-is includes an area that is up to current Swiss standards for goats/sheep and enough land to theoretically make having a little hobby farm a reality. My goal would be to ultimately make a small amount of money off whatever "farming" we did, ideally enough so that it paid for itself but having owned horses and worked in several stables, I know just how quickly expenses pile up without income coming in, hence keeping the "hobby" in "hobby farm" Before pursuing looking at buying such a property, we'd really like to have more of an idea of what is possible for us, ie. do we need permits to keep goats/sheep/chickens/etc (my understanding is no, is that right?), where to go to get more information about Swiss standards for farm animal care, etc.

I guess at the moment I don't even have specific questions, would just love to hear from anyone who keeps animals or who manages to sell a little (produce, products, whatever) at local markets etc.
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Old 02.08.2019, 14:05
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Re: "Hobby farming" or "smallholding" - anyone have experience?

On growing vegetables, contact EastEnders, she is an expert
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Old 02.08.2019, 15:49
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Re: "Hobby farming" or "smallholding" - anyone have experience?

I'm in the process of doing smething similar, albeit on a longer timescale.

But not in Switzerland, in Eastern Europe. Land is way cheaper there, and regulations are also laxer. My OH is already spending some time there now but we intend to employ somebody to keep things running for the first years and then gradually take over ourselves.

Basically we were told by the mayor that if we want to make changes, including adding barns and outbuildings, that we should just talk to the neighbours and if they don't object, neither will he. It also helps that the builder doing the work is the mayor's cousin and godfather to the neighbour's kids, and basically everybody is happy to see that somebody has bought and is investing in land that the previous owner had allowed to go to the dogs for way too long.

Also such issues as drilling wells is much easier to get permits for, and much cheaper too.

Just to put this into perspective, we payed 18 KCHF for about 3000 sqm of land plus a farmhouse in fair condition plus various outbuildings whose conditions range from fair to better look the other way. The land includes mature orchards, vegetable plots, paddocks for grazing animals and ploughed land. Railway station, post office, doctor's surgery and a village shop all within walking distance (less that 10 minutes walking). Locals willing to work for about 2 to 3CHF per hour.

Many people pay more for their car than we did for a wonderful farm. If ever the land gets too small for us, we could easily add some more as there is plenty on the market. Plenty of Swiss, Austrians and Germans in the area, but also the occasional Dutch or English family, and even one South African family with young kids.
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Old 02.08.2019, 16:03
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Re: "Hobby farming" or "smallholding" - anyone have experience?

Thanks, roegner!

Good to know, amogles. We know that land is expensive here in CH, hence part of the attraction to the US. We also know that permits etc can get tricky in CH, another attraction to the US. We're trying to balance out all the pros and cons to decide where is best for us and our family.

You do touch on one thing that I'm hoping we can use to our advantage either in CH or USA:
Quote:
basically everybody is happy to see that somebody has bought and is investing in land that the previous owner had allowed to go to the dogs for way too long.
I've heard more than one story in CH about families getting properties for a much more reasonable price, even after being outbid by other potential buyers, simple because the owners don't want to see their land and family home turned into an investor's project of four apartments etc. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage in our property search, be it CH or USA.
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Old 02.08.2019, 18:07
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Re: "Hobby farming" or "smallholding" - anyone have experience?

This thread might be of interest:

https://www.englishforum.ch/property...ural-land.html

(Wonder what happened to that poster? There is a suitable property on the market now... at a cool 4.5 million.)

Also, use the search term 'BGBB' - there are a couple dozen EF threads that reference this piece of legislation that you will soon need to delve into.

The text of the Bundesgesetz über das bäuerliche Bodenrecht is here:
https://www.admin.ch/opc/de/classifi...253/index.html

In short, the sale of farmland is heavily restricted, as is it's use. If a property is held under the BGBB, unless you are Swiss from a farming family going back to 1291 there are significant, if not insurmountable, barriers.

Are you CH/ EU as well as American? Do you come from farming families or have you owned or worked farms yourself?

As Americans we at a minimum would need a special permit granted by the Farming Gods, and in practice in the cantons we have investigated (SZ, LU, SG, UR, ZG) no way, no how.

This despite OH having grown up on a farm, with the knowledge and hands-on experience needed. He's a Hoosier farm boy at heart, he'd be running a working hobby-scale farm, he wouldn't be a weekend gentleman-farmer merely playing at the welly-wearing lifestyle. (The latter is part of what the BGBB is in place to prevent.) Despite having the resources to do it right, we would not need nor want the usual subsidies, despite the fact that we love country life, would have truly poured our hearts into the farming community - a big fat 'nope'.

We have been told point blank that as non-EU people we have no chance to buy BGBB land. (And frankly, our age was an issue.) Is that really the case? Who knows. You might have a different experience than we did - I certainly hope so.

(Also, I have no idea how other cantons put the legislation into practice. Could be a radically different approach... Anyone from the Romandie or Tessin care to comment?)

Another option is Landwirtschaftsland that has been taken out of the BGBB. This, too, might require permits to purchase - much depends on the individual property. Certainly development of Landwirtschaftsland is strictly regulated - my rule, from experience, is only buy if we would love the property exactly as it is with no changes - because when the whole alphabet soup of governing agencies gets involved you might not have many options.


The expert in the sale of farm properties in the greater ZH area is Juckerberatung. Be aware, though, that their clients are the farmers selling.
https://www.juckerberatung.ch

When a farm property not under the BGBB came up in SZ about 10 years ago we went to the open house... along with what seemed like hundred other people! seriously - they had to hire security to direct traffic.

Another firm you might try is Immoleader:
https://www.immoleader.ch/UNSERE-ERFAHRUNG_RSI.htm

The specialize in horse properties, but over the years I've seen some non-horse hobby farms as well.

Like Amogles says, if you are really looking for a hobby farm, Switzerland probably isn't the place given dearth of available properties and the barriers that are in place.

---

I spent over a decade chasing my farming dream. Didn't happen, and now it's too late. Hope you have better luck than we did...

Have fun browsing the BGBB.

All the best.

Last edited by meloncollie; 02.08.2019 at 19:43.
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Old 02.08.2019, 20:05
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Re: "Hobby farming" or "smallholding" - anyone have experience?

Thanks for the doses of reality!

The property we’ve looked at is not listed under BGBB though zoned rural not village, my husband is Swiss and I’m American, I’m the one with more of a farming background, though nothing terribly exciting. We do have a few connections in the fribourg farming community But overall trying to be realistic and see whether or not we could keep (these are the maximum dreamed of numbers) a dozen or so chickens, a dozen goats, a couple of pigs and a couple of ponies without having to jump through too many hoops... The property we’ve seen is in “no-mans land” so to speak, a four km drive from the nearest village with terrible public transport options on a dead end road with only one other property (the true farm that owns much of the land around). And it’s squarely on the röstigraben. Somehow I’m holding my breath that it could work for us but really trying to be realistic here. Finances, logistics, permits...there’s a lot to navigate.
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Old 02.08.2019, 18:02
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Re: "Hobby farming" or "smallholding" - anyone have experience?

Quote:
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. . .
Just to put this into perspective, we payed 18 KCHF for about 3000 sqm of land plus a farmhouse in fair condition plus various outbuildings . . .
That might just about get you an open car parking space in a more rural area of Switzerland.
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