Wind Farms and Solar Panels: The (Near) Future of Green Energy and Land Real Estate

Many people talk about “green energy,” such as wind farms and solar panels, like it’s as futuristic as flying cars. What these people don’t realize is that wind and solar energy is already taking the world of energy by storm. Companies like Disney and Google are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on wind farms and solar panels. Farmers are also turning to green energy sources to cut back on their energy bills and make extra money off of their land. Let’s take a look at how the land industry is being shaped by green energy.

Even the biggest fans of green energy will admit that wind farms look kind of creepy; like an alien colony landed on Earth. While they can be strange looking, their ability to convert wind into energy is impressive. The average 10-kilowatt wind turbine produces around 16,000 kilowatts annually. In comparison, the average U.S. household consumes about 10,000 kilowatts of electricity each year.

Not only can you power your house (and then some) with a single wind turbine, you can also get a pretty sweet tax break. The federal renewable electricity Production Tax Credit (PTC) is a per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for the electricity generated by your wind turbine that is sold to an unrelated person. This tax credit flies under the radar because so few individuals own wind turbines on their land. In 2016, wind farms produced a tiny amount of American energy (only around 5.6 percent), but if more people knew about this tax break, those numbers might skyrocket.

Another benefit to having a wind turbine on your property is kissing energy bills goodbye. Once the wind turbine has been paid for and installed, you can use the energy it generates instead of buying it. Imagine never paying an energy bill for the rest of your life!

While wind turbines have yet to reach their full potential, solar panels have become the stars of the green energy scene. Did you know Disney is planning to build a solar farm? It will lower the theme parks greenhouse gas emissions by 57,000 metric tons, the equivalent of taking over 9,000 cars off the road. China has invested $86.5 billion in solar. Even small farmers are getting into it. In 2017, nearly a quarter of all California farms generated onsite solar energy

Solar panels can be a great way to cut down on costs long term. Many people balk at the high prices of installing solar panels, but over time they make money. Every kilowatt your panels produce will offset whatever you would normally have had to buy from an outside company.

So, should you invest in wind turbines or solar panels for your land? While green energy is great, it’s not always the best option for everyone. Here are some things to consider:

  • Is your state supportive of green energy? Some states are pushing green energy by offering huge tax breaks and rewarding bigger companies for using solar energy. For example, in Illinois, the Future Energy Jobs Act requires Illinois utilities to get at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. If you live in Illinois, you could make serious money selling green energy to companies.
  • Will green energy make more money than your current crops? While the values of crops and livestock fluctuate, the value of green energy is strong and there is a growing demand for it. However, if solar panels and wind turbines would make less money than your current land use, it might not be worth it.
  • Do you have the money for the down payment? Wind turbines and solar panels will save you money in the long term, but they do cost a fair amount to install.

Wind turbines and solar panels are the future of the energy business, and that future is not as far away as you might think. Green energy has a lot to offer landowners, from tax credits to additional income. As the cost of installing green energy sources becomes more and more affordable, we will see the full range of benefits green energy has to offer the land industry.

About the author: Laura Barker is a Marketing Assistant Intern for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and has been with RLI since October 2017.

In What Ways Do Soil Types Affect Land Use?

Soil deserves a lot more attention than it gets. Few people talk about how much soil types affect land use The right kind of soil can help a land owner grow great crops or build houses that last a long time. The wrong kind of soil can result in stunted crops or houses being swept away during floods. While soil types might not seem important at first glance, they just might be the factor that makes or breaks your land property.

Because of the unique chemical make-ups of each soil type, the practices used on a plot of land must be matched to the land’s soil type. Each soil type is unique and has its own benefits and drawbacks. Some are best suited for crops, while others are better for buildings houses and barns on.

If you are new to soil types, here’s a quick Soil 101 on the different soil types you could find on your land real estate:

  1. Clay. Clay soil has excellent water storage. Thanks to this, it holds onto plant nutrients and is great for roses, leafy vegetables, peas, and tomatoes.
  2. Chalky. This low moisture soil is typically found over limestone beds and chalk deposits. This soil type is not ideal for planting crops, as it can result in stunted or yellow plants. However, finding this soil type on your land doesn’t mean you can’t use it at all. Adding acid-rich materials (such as peat or manure) can help balance out the more destructive elements of this soil type.
  3. Loamy. Loamy soil is a combination of sand, silt, and clay. It’s a favorite among farmers, thanks to its high calcium and PH levels. You can grow just about anything in this soil type.
  4. Peaty. Dark brown or black in color, this soil type has a high water content that is great for crops that require a lot of moisture. However, it does dry up quickly in the summer, so Southern farmers might want to be careful with this soil type.
  5. Saline soil. You’ll probably find this soil type if you are living in an extremely dry region. Its high salt content makes it a poor choice for growing most crops.
  6. Sandy. This free-draining soil dries out faster than any other soil type on this list. Any nutrients that crops may need can be washed through the soil during wet weather.
  7. Silty. Silty land has small particles and is smooth to the touch. It has great moisture retention, but drains poorly. Similar to peaty soil, this soil type can be great for crops that need a lot of water, but crops that don’t will likely drown.

With all these soil types, how on earth is anyone supposed to know what soil type is right for their land?

There are three options for finding out what soil type your land has. One is to get a soil map. You can go to the USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Services (NRCS) page. They have soil maps and data for more than ninety-five percent of the nation’s counties. All you have to do is click on the link and zoom into your zip code (like you would in Google Maps) or type in your address. Click on the ‘Soil Survey Area’ tab on the left-hand side and you will be given a record of what types of land are in your area.

You can also ask local soil experts who are familiar with the soil types in your area. Soil experts, also referred to as extension agents, can help you figure out what type of soil you have on your land and what sort of improvements can be done to your soil. This personalized help is great for land owners who have multiple soil types on their land property.

Soil testing gives you an exact breakdown of what is in your soil. In the fall 2015 edition of Terra Firma, Kirk Goble, ALC, explains the benefits of soil testing on page twenty nine.

“The soil test lab report provides valuable information on the makeup of the soil, its pH (acidity or alkalinity), and cation exchange capacity (CEC),” says Goble. “CEC is a determination of the ability of the soil components (primarily clay and humus) to allow for the absorption and transport of soil nutrients from the soil to the plant roots. It is essentially a measure of the soil’s ability to hold nutrients and feed the plants.”

After testing, you’ll be given advice on what crops are best suited for your soil type and recommendations on how to improve your land. “Fertilizer recommendations are based on the results of a proper soil test,” says Goble.

Soil types are incredibly important to land real estate and are far too often overlooked. Soil types affect land use more than most people think. With all these tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to figure out the soil types on your land and use them to your advantage.

About the author: Laura Barker is Marketing Assistant for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and had been with RLI since October 2017.

Investing in Land Real Estate for Retirement: What You Need To Know

Choosing how to save for retirement can be a decision that takes years. After all, that’s the money that you’ll be living on during your golden years. Most people stick to 401ks and stocks, but what many people don’t know is that you can invest in land real estate to save for retirement. Investing in land real estate can be a great way to save money long-term, but with any investment, you need to know what type of land to invest in, what sort of returns you can expect, and what to avoid when investing in land real estate.

There are many benefits to investing in land real estate. One benefit is that if you invest in land in different areas, you will be protected if certain properties are hit by natural disasters or the value of one type of land real estate drops. Geographic and commodity diversity can keep your money safe even in a rocky market. Another benefit is that land real estate (farmland in particular) sometimes have higher returns than stocks do. Most stocks can be expected to produce a six to seven percent return over time), while farmland has produced a steady 11.5 percent annual return over the past twenty five years.

If you are looking for a low-maintenance investment, vacant land is a great option. It is cheaper to buy than developed land, and you don’t need to spend money doing repairs or renovations. While this is an excellent investment to make in the long-term, you will have to be patient. This investment will take time to make money. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the market to make sure you’ll be able to sell it at the best possible price. Consider looking into vacant land properties in areas that are seeing an increase in population or jobs. This land will is likely to become more desirable over time, and you’ll be able to sell it at a higher price than what you bought it for originally.

When investing or buying vacant land, you should always know who you are buying from.Be careful of people who have only owned the land for a short amount of time and seem very eager to get the land off their hands. Vacant land takes times to accumulate value, so it’s suspicious if people only own it for a short amount of time. The owners might know something about the land that makes it less valuable. This is a perfect example of why it is so important to find an agent with the expertise and experience needed to conduct land real estate transactions – like an Accredited Land Consultant (ALC).

Timberland or forestland are also excellent long-term investments. The returns for timberland real estate tend to move counter cyclically to other markets.  Because of this, it will add portfolio diversification, lowering the risk of losing money. Timber is also a hearty crop that can provide you with returns for many years.

You should invest in timber or forest land only if you are planning to retire ten or more years down the road. You’ll have to spend money to plant trees and won’t get returns as they grow, but once the trees reach maturity, they will provide steady returns.

Although investing in land real estate to save for retirement is an excellent option, there are some key factors to look out for. Keep the following in mind while you look at different properties:

-You need to know the land inside out. You need to know everything about the land you are investing in. This means zoning, mineral rights, any environmental hazards on the land, usage restrictions, access easements, taxes on the property, and the likelihood of natural disasters in the area. If you think you are asking too many questions, you are not. Even small issues can end up costing you a lot in the long term. For example, you could have an incredible property with full mineral rights, but if the soil drainage is poor, the value of the land could drop so dramatically that any other positive factors wouldn’t matter at all. Finding an ALC near you can help ensure that you see the whole picture when it comes to investing in a piece of land.

-You need to be crystal clear on the taxes. This was mentioned in the previous bullet point, but it’s so important we added it again. Some properties have taxes that are so high that the taxes eat up any returns you make on the land. Speak with your land agent about this and make sure you understand what your costs will be before investing in a property.

-Are there wetlands on the property? Thanks to Waters of the US (WOTUS) and other laws, if you have wetlands on your property, huge parts of your land might not be useable. This could cause the value of your land to drop dramatically.

Investing in land real estate can be a great way to save up for retirement. Land real estate is a valuable and limited community that, historically, continually grows in value. If you do your research and spread your investments out over a few different types of land, you could have a successful start to saving and creating a well-balanced, diversified portfolio for your retirement.

About the author: Laura Barker is Marketing Assistant for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and had been with RLI since October 2017.

What’s All The Buzz About Bees and Land Real Estate?

Bees in America have been dropping like flies. Since the late 1990s, beekeepers, farmers, and scientists have noticed a steady decline in the bee population across the country. Before 2006, the usual number of bees that beekeepers lost due to frost or disease was 5-10 percent. After 2006, beekeepers saw that number rise to between a 30 to 36 percent decline in their hives. Panic really set in when a US report stated that American beekeepers lost 44.1 percent of their hives between March 2015 and April 2016.

So, what does this have to do with the land real estate market? Losing bees could have devastating effects on our farms, economy, and day-to-day life. As food pollinators, bees play a huge part in almost everything we eat and everything that our food (cows, pigs, turkeys, etc.) eats. Without them, landowners would lose the most efficient and cost-effective pollinators on Earth, driving the cost of farming and food way up. Farmers would have to invest in expensive pollination technology. If they couldn’t afford the technology, farmers would be severely limited in what crops they could grow since bees pollinate thirty percent of the world’s crops.

The loss of bees could also be disastrous for land values. Crops, livestock, and wildlife will drop in numbers and value without the bees around to pollinate the plants and food sources of the land. Since the value of land real estate relies heavily on the profitability of the land and its natural resources, a drop in bee population could mean a huge drop in land values.

No one knows the main reason bee populations are dropping, but there are several factors scientists believe are hurting our winged friends. A growing number of varroa mites, tiny crab-like parasites, have been feeding off of drone bees and can kill off entire hives. These mites are tiny and hard to spot, which lets them destroy hives from the inside out without anyone noticing until it is too late. Another possible reason is neonicotinoids, a powerful insecticide that slowly weakens bees.

People have been scrambling to find ways to help the honeybees. Almond growers in California are trying to breed more blue orchard bees (B.O.B.s). The blue orchard bees are known for being excellent pollinators. They are more efficient than regular honey bees; a few hundred female blue orchard bees can do the same amount of work as 10,000 regular honey bees.

Although introducing a new breed of bee sounds like a great idea, there are a few drawbacks to the blue orchard bee. For one, they do not produce honey. Another is that they have sluggish reproduction rates (bee keepers have only been able to increase their B.O.B.s a factor of three to eight every year, a tiny fraction of how quickly honey bees can be increased), so getting enough for the current American demand for bees might be tough. The cost of raising B.O.B.s is also still uncertain.

Technology also offers hope for the bees. Robo-bees may sound like something from a sci-fi moive, but in Japan, they are already a reality. Japanese scientists have created a remote-controlled drone the size of a dragonfly. These robo-bees are able to pollinate lilies and are currently being retooled to pollinate other crops. U.S. scientists say a similar product in is the works right here in our own country.

These robo-bees also have their drawbacks. They would be significantly more expensive than raising honeybees, and the risk of malfunctioning could leave fields without pollination for days or even weeks on end.

While the rest of the world is trying to figure out a cure for this epidemic, there are things you can do to help the bees:

Grow flowers that attract bees.  Lavender, white clover, and thyme can all help attract bees to your farm.

-Build a hive or sponsor one. Vice President Mike Pence had a beehive in his backyard and encourages others to do the same. Don’t like the idea of bees buzzing around where you go barefoot? You can also support a hive through websites like the Honeybee Conservancy  to help give bees a safe place to thrive.

-Make your land real estate bee-friendly. Besides planting bee-friendly flowers, you can also invest in pesticides that don’t harm bees.

The decline in bee population is a serious threat to everyone. However, with a raised awareness, people are starting to understand how important bees are to our food and land real estate. Because of this, there is hope that the bee population across America will be able to grow again.

About the author: Laura Barker is Marketing Assistant for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and had been with RLI since October 2017.

How To Have a Great Hunt in February

 

By the end of January, most people have put away their guns and declared the hunting season over. February is one of the slower months for hunting. However, if you still have an itch to hunt, there are plenty of hunting opportunities for you in February. Here are some tips to help you have a great hunting season even after January is over.

1: Don’t Count Out Small Game

Deer season might be over, but there are still plenty of clever critters that will make for an exciting hunt. In many states, hunting small animals like rabbits and squirrels is legal throughout February. If you haven’t hunted squirrels before, it might not sound as exciting as hunting an elk or a wild boar. However, since the winter and the earlier hunting season have already claimed some of the weaker ones, the remaining squirrels will be cunning and make for a rewarding hunt. Rabbits are also a challenging hunt. They are one of the more popular small games to hunt, and it’s easy to see why. They have an excellent sense of smell and long-distance vision that only the most skilled hunters can know how to trick. If you are looking for a hunt that will challenge your brain as well as your hunting skills, small game could be your new favorite prey.

2: Some Animals Can Be Hunted Year-Round

While this does vary state by state, most states allow year-round hunting of animals that are considered pests or could harm the ecosystem of the land. Wild pigs and coyotes are some of the more popular animals to hunt year-round. Coyotes are highly intelligent and adaptable animals that have gotten a passionate following over the years in the hunting community.

Also, wild pigs can be hunted year-round in twelve states (California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin). These husky creatures have an unpredictable temper, so only go after them if you are an experienced and thrill-seeking hunter.

3: Check Your Calendar

Depending on where you live, you might have more time to hunt big game than you think. Alabama allows deer hunting until February 10th, thanks to the varying rutting seasons around the state. Hunting seasons can shrink or grow based off population, rutting season, and the needs of the land.

4: Hunt Smarter, Not Harder

Every hunting season has its ups and downs. Hunting in February is no different. Fewer hunters means less competition for you. The barren land and fallen leaves mean you will have an excellent view of your prey. The catch? They can see you just as clearly. This is the time of year to break out your best camo.

Another drawback for hunting in February is that most of the prime hunt has already been harvested. January hunters have taken out the biggest game, and Mother Nature has taken the animals not fit enough to survive the harsh winter season. You might have missed the biggest animals of the season, but there are still lots of animals out there ready to give you a memorable day in the great outdoors.

Hunting in February is for hunters who like a challenge. Even though you might not catch the buck of your dreams, there is still plenty of great hunting to be had.

About the author: Laura Barker is Marketing Assistant for the REALTORS® Land Institute. She graduated from Clark University in May 2017 and had been with RLI since October 2017.

What Does the Decline in Hunting Mean for Recreational Land Real Estate?

There’s nothing quite like hunting; the rush of adrenaline when you hit your target, teaching little ones how to spot a deer, and spending time in the great outdoors. Hunting also has surprising benefits for the environment. Hunting licenses and fees are the main source of income for wildlife agencies, and hunting can prevent overpopulation.

However, there has been a significant decrease in hunting over the years. Over the last five years, the number of hunters has decreased by 15 percent. What does this mean for recreational real estate and the future of hunting?

One of the biggest reasons for the decline in hunting is our country’s changing landscape. With the human population growing every day, prime land real estate started going towards building homes and stores instead of hunting grounds. Many old hunting spots that families have loved for generations have closed and been replaced by a mall.

 

http://longilbert.com/blog-and-updates/2017/4/14/what-is-the-cost-of-a-hunting-license

Another reason that less people are hunting is the cost. The rising price of ammunition, licenses, and permits are driving away hunters who can’t afford the price hike. As you can see from this chart from longilbert.com, the cost of hunting licenses is massive for non-residents. $250 license fees are pricing some people out of the sport. Even local license costs are skyrocketing. The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission has proposed a fee increase that will raise resident license prices from $7 to a whopping $27. That’s a 26 percent increase!

Millennials haven’t been picking up the sport as much as other generations have. The biggest deterrent is that they don’t have anyone to teach them. “You don’t just get up and go hunting one day- your father or father-type figure has to have hunted,” says Mark Damian Duda, an executive director of the research firm Responsive Management. Hunting is a sport which requires a lot of teaching and expertise. With a growing number of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers hanging up their hunting vests, Millennials are left without anyone to introduce them to the sport.

There are a lot of downsides to the decrease in hunting. The group that suffers most from the lack of hunting is, surprisingly, the environment. Hunting can prevent over-population, which can wreck an ecosystem and leave animals starving as they compete for food. Hunting fees and licenses are the main source of income for many wildlife preserves and recreational land real estate. This income pays the employees, maintains the grounds, and funds projects to help the wildlife. Without this income, many parks are struggling to pay their bills.

Does the decreasing number of hunters mean the end for the sport? Not at all. There is still a very active hunting community and positive trends that show hunting increases in certain states. The same study that showed overall hunters decreasing also showed a 9 percent increase in hunting participation from 2006 to 2011. The number of paid hunting license holders has actually increased in certain states. In Texas, the number has jumped from 1,060,455 license holders in 2015 to 1,148,765 in 2017.

The local food movement has also helped the hunting community. With a focus on shopping local and knowing where your food comes from, this movement has introduced people to hunting as a fun and sustainable way to get your dinner.

Recreational land real estate is still going. In last year’s RLI survey, sales of recreational land actually increased. Recreational and residential land real estate sales accounted for 50 percent. While interest in the sport may waver, prices per acre of land real estate remain high. The average price for hunting land real estate in the Midwest is $2,975 per acre.

While hunting is experiencing a dip in popularity, there are still many loyal fans of hunting who want to bring it back into popularity. There have been efforts by local governments to make hunting affordable and accessible again. Ryan Zinke, the United States Secretary of Interior issued orders to overturn a ban of lead ammunition and issued an order to increase hunters’ access to public land. In the community, many youth groups are teaching young people about hunting and nature. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched the Youth Hunting Program of Florida to teach young people how to hunt safety.

Hunting is going through some changes. Most of them are positive. A new movement and generation are learning about the benefits of hunting and how it can help the environment. Local government are now realizing the effects of price hikes on hunting and are taking steps to change it. With a new focus on sustainability and teaching the next generation, hunting is sure to remain a classic American pastime.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Natural Disasters on Land?

California has been under attack by wildfire. The North California fires in October destroyed over 245,000 acres of land and caused more than $1 billion in damages. The fires were so devastating that they have their own Wikipedia page. At the time this article is being written, the Southern California fires are still raging on. Currently, the fires have burned through almost 150,000 acres of land and counting. The losses are devastating, and the looming long-term effects from these wildfires are almost as bad as the fires themselves.  Many people assume that the worst of the damage is over when the natural disaster leaves. However, for those in the land real estate business, the trouble may just be starting.

The long-term effects of a natural disaster are tragic for everyone involved, especially those in the land real estate business. Wildfire does more than just burn down houses. It destroys crops, kills livestock, and scares wildlife away from hunting grounds. Wildfire can also cripple a property permanently, leaving ash and debris from the fire that can taint the produce and soil and render huge plots of land unusable.

One business that is already predicted to suffer long-term from the fires are the wineries and vineyards; a huge part of the California land real estate market. While 90 percent of the grapes have already been harvested, farmers are worried about next year. The ash and debris from the wildfires could cause next year’s grapes to have an unpleasant smoky flavor at best, and could ruin the crops completely at worst.

If we want to take a closer look at what the future long-term effects of this natural disaster are, we first need to look back at past disasters and their impact.

In 2003, the Cedar Fire burned over 280,000 acres of land in San Diego. It caused over $1.3 billion in damages and resulted in 15 deaths. The already fire-prone climate of California (the Santa Ana winds make fire travel faster, while the dry, warm climate is prime for disaster) was made worse by an overstretched fire department and policies that prevented them from taking steps to end the fire sooner. This devastating loss took a long-term toll on land real estate sales (wildfires reduces both land and residential real estate by 10 percent, while a second fire knocks the prices down by nearly 23 percent) and the soil. Fire sucks necessary nutrients out of the soil. Bad soil can lead to withered crops, less wildlife returning to your property, and a plummeting value for the land.

However, some good did come out of the tragedy. Advancements in firefighting and new technology (including this 747 “SuperTanker” equipped with powerful firefighting equipment) were created to prevent future disasters like the Cedar Fire. New laws and policies were created to help firefighters to stop forest fires before they spread.

Other natural disasters can also be just as harmful to a land real estate agent’s business and for landowners alike. Like wildfires, floods can force sellers to lower their property’s prices due to decreased property values and drown crops, while hurricanes can cause timberland prices to plunge.

One example is Hurricane Andrew’s effects on Florida. The hurricane was so strong that scientists retired the name forever. In 1992, this category five hurricane tore through Florida, causing $25.3 billion in damages and 44 deaths. The storm ripped apart land real estate and changed the environment forever. Hurricane Irma, the 2017 hurricane that resulted in at least 134 deaths, caused over $66.77 billion in damages. These numbers could have been much higher if Floridians hadn’t used what they learned from Hurricane Andrew to prepare for the storm. Emergency crews were trained in dealing with massive storms, residents installed hurricane shutters and other protective gear on their property, and tolls were suspended to promote evacuations. While the damage and death toll left in the wake of the storm was still horrific, people used what they’d learned from the last disaster to keep their loved ones and property safe.

Again, we see laws put in place to prevent future damage. A new law required supermarkets, gas stations, and hospitals to have generators on hand so that they could open faster in a storm. Emergency management became faster and more efficient. Florida became the example for the rest of America in how to prepare your land real estate and your home for a natural disaster. Here are a few tips you can take from previous natural disasters:

-Be aware of potential disasters. No one can predict all natural disasters, but there are some that are more likely than others. For example, California is a hotbed for wildfires (dry, warm climate + the powerful Santa Ana winds = trouble) and earthquakes. Property near mountainous regions are prone to landslides. Middle America is most likely to get hit by a tornado. Stay aware of what you and your land property are most likely to be hit by so you can be prepared.

-Have an emergency kit. If you or your property is in an area of land that is high risk for a natural disaster, be sure to have the necessities ready. FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has an emergency list they recommend (check it out here). The most important things to remember are a three-day’s supply of clean water, non-perishable foods (granola bars, dried fruit, canned vegetables), a flashlight, and copies of important documents like your will and passport that could get destroyed in a natural disaster.

So, what can be expected after the smoke clears and the waters recede? What are the long-term effects from these disasters? There are two things we know about how California will do after the fires, one good and one bad. The bad news is that the long-term effects on the land and environment can be serious and long lasting. The effect of ash in the soil and water can be devastating for the land, and the prices of land real estate will most likely be impacted for years to come.

However, the good news is that the lessons learned from this wildfire will help prepare people to protect their properties before the next disaster strikes. After each disaster, new laws, regulations, and technology are developed to fix the problems that caused the natural disaster. Even though the short and long-term effects of the wildfire are disheartening, each disaster offers a chance to learn something new and get even closer to learning how to control natural disasters.

Holiday Gift Ideas for Surprising The Land Lover In Your Life

Some people will love any gift you give them: others are a bit pickier. Then there are those people you will have absolutely no idea for what to get them. Below, we’ve found great gifts for the land lover in your life that is impossible to shop for (or even to treat yourself).

That One Person You Don’t Know in Secret Santa

There’s always that one person in Secret Santa who no one knows that well. And this year, you picked their name. Luckily you do know that they love land and everything related to it. So what do you get someone who you know almost nothing about other than that?

1. Travel Pro Power Bank. This compact phone charger is a thoughtful gift for a wide variety of personalities. You can charge your phone from 0% to 100% quickly, which is great for people who love long hiking trips, car rides, or people who just forgot to plug their phone in overnight.

2. Kelvin.23. Everyone can find a use for this tool. The Kelvin 23 is twenty-three tools in one. It includes a hammer, a six-foot tape measure, sixteen screw and socket bits, and more.

3. Batch Gift Box. Who wouldn’t love to open a box of Southern goodies? Choose from dozens of baskets based on food (coffee, barbeque, chocolate) or state/city (Austin, Nashville, Louisiana). If you know where your Secret Santa is from or what type of food your Secret Santa likes to snack on, you can get the perfect Christmas gift.

 

The Hard-To-Impress Hostess

She is the perfect hostess and gift giver, and now you want to return the favor. Even though her manners are perfect, maybe you’re a little bit intimidated by her. It feels like no matter what you get her, she won’t be impressed.

1. Beautiful copies of classic books. A beautiful copy of a classic book is sure to impress. Bonus points if you know her favorite author.

2. Good Grips Cold Brew Coffee Maker. This coffee maker makes brewing after-dinner coffee easier. It brews tea, too!

3. Maggie Louise Chocolates. The All Is Bright Chocolate Box features jewel-colored chocolates in the shape of ornaments. They come in an assortment of white, dark, and milk chocolate. Who doesn’t love a little chocolate to sweeten up their holiday season?

 

The Guy Who Already Has Everything

The latest in technology, food, clothes – he has it. He’s always on top of the trends and has everything his heart desires. What do you get the man who already has everything?

1. Southern Bourbon Stout Beer Brewing Kit. Is he the type of guy who loves beer and is always on the hunt for a new favorite? Now he can make his own!

2. Dakine Party Bucket. This is perfect for barbeques or outdoor parties. The Dakine Party Bucket contains one insulated wine bottle bolter and eight built-in insulated Koozies for the drink of his choice. There’s also a built-in bottle opener and water-resistant snack pocket.

3. Monogrammed Leather Cocktail Shaker. Even the guy who seems to have everything doesn’t have a customized cocktail shaker.

 

In Laws

Stressing out about gifts for the in-laws is a holiday tradition. Would a gag gift be greeted with laughs or death stares? Here are some gifts that’ll please the parents.

1. Custom House Portrait Art. This unique artwork is a thoughtful gift. You can make a custom line drawing in the color of your choice of a place that is special to them, like the church they got married in or the family house. This is a gift that you know won’t end up gathering dust in the garage.

2. Custom Large Casserole Lasagna Pan. This will definitely get you in your in-laws’ good graces. You can customize this lasagna pan with a family recipe.

3. Homemade Pecan Pie. Want to make something a little more hands-on? Try a homemade pie. Here’s a recipe that only requires seven ingredients and has rave reviews. Gifts always mean more when the secret ingredient is love.

 

Your Teenage Niece

You want to get her something trendy, but the trends change so fast that by the time you get a gift, there’s a good chance that it’s no longer cool. Here are some gift ideas that’ll never go out of style.

1. Monogram Something Unique. She probably already has a monogramed necklace and sweatshirt, so why not think outside the box? You can monogram soaps , umbrellas, Christmas ornaments, stickers, beach towels, and more. Looking for more options? Sites like Etsy have an unlimited number of customizable gifts.

2. Home State Necklace. This is a simple piece that goes with everything and can remind them of home even if they are away for the holidays.

3. Lilly Pulitzer iPhone case. She’ll love this gorgeous watercolor case that adds a little personality to an otherwise standard item.

We hope these gift ideas help you kick-start your holiday shopping and give you inspiration for the perfect gift for even the most difficult people on your Christmas list. Happy Holidays!

How To Make More Money Off Of Your Christmas Tree Farm

It’s that time of year again. With Thanksgiving now behind us, people are in the holiday spirit, which means it is peak Christmas tree season.

However, Christmas trees come with a unique set of complications. It’s a crop that’s only sold once a year, the trees take a lot of money and effort to transport, and use up a ton of land. Christmas trees have one of the smallest time frames for buying and selling of any crop, even though they can take up to eight years to reach maturity.

Despite all of that, Christmas trees are still a lucrative crop and bring in steady holiday money to big and small farms alike. If you’re interested in learning how to make more money off of your Christmas tree land, read on.

  1. Make Low-Cost Adjustments to Get Better Trees

Just like how people will pay more for beautiful flowers or huge, juicy strawberries, you can make more money off of good-looking trees. There are some tricks you can use in the early stages of the tree’s life to increase its value. If you make adjustments in the soil that your trees are growing in to get the right PH balance and moisture level, your trees will be much heathier and better looking. Also, keep up the habit of shaping your Christmas trees. Cutting away at dead and gnarled branches every year helps to give the trees that beautiful conical shape that everyone loves. It might seem tedious, but the results will be worth it.

  1. Grow the Most Popular Types of Trees

Some varieties of Christmas trees sell better than others. The Fraser Fir is the most popular type of Christmas tree because of its wonderful scent and classic Christmas tree look. But some places prefer different types of trees. The Eastern Red Cedar is popular in the South because its natural cone-like shape doesn’t require much maintenance. The White Fir is popular in California for its needle retention. Look up the sales for your region in the last year and invest in the type of tree that is selling best to maximize your profit potential.

  1. Consider Pick Your Own/Cut Your Own

Pick-Your-Own sections have their pros and cons. On the pros side, it’s a great draw for a fun family day out, you can charge more for Pick-Your-Own trees than for regular trees, and people will stay on your property longer, which means they have more time to purchase your produce. However, having people linger on your property can also be a downside. People can wear down your land and cause damage to your crops. If your land is used to lots of visitors, then Pick-Your-Own could be an option for you. If not, consider having your Pick-Your-Own section far enough away from the rest of your crops so that customers don’t damage them. If it’s too late in the season to re-locate your Pick-Your-Own section, invest in plenty of fences and signs to keep people from wandering where they shouldn’t.

  1. Advertise, Advertise, Advertise!

If you haven’t started advertising yet, you should start as soon as possible. Most people buy their Christmas tree shortly after Thanksgiving, so you want to get the word out about your trees soon. And with people shopping for Thanksgiving and getting a head-start on their Christmas shopping, this is the perfect time to invest in a billboard ad. Since there is a time frame around how long you can sell trees and how long people will want to buy them, you’ll want to use this time to get the word out to as many people in your area as possible. Get creative! Use flyers, radio ads, newspaper ads, whatever you can think of.

  1. Don’t Cut Down All Your Trees at Once

Even though they are famous for their ability to withstand droughts, Christmas trees dry out after being cut down faster than you’d think. The trees start to lose moisture as soon as they are chopped down. Dehydrated or dying Christmas trees lose their needles and turn brown, which can turn potential buyers away from your property. So, instead of having lots of pre-cut trees out for display, only have a few trees on display and replace them as they are bought. A great way of keeping track of when to cut down trees is by taking pre-orders. This way, you can cut down the tree the day the buyer gets there instead of leaving it out to dry.

  1. Market What Makes Your Trees Unique

What makes your tree lot stand out from everyone else’s? Are your trees organic? A popular or unique type of pine tree? Is it a family-run ranch? Pick-Your-Own? Each of these is a great selling point for your advertisements. Also, if your trees have been grown with specific traits (needle retention, doesn’t need much upkeep, beautiful smell, extra-large, etc.), be sure to mention those, too.

  1. Give Your Trees the Spotlight on Social Media

Does your farmland have a website, blog, Facebook page, or Instagram? Put up some pictures of your best Christmas trees. This is an easy, free way to show off your produce. You can also put up pictures of the trees growing and the harvesting process so that potential buyers can get an insight into how the trees are taken care of (for more about immersive online farm tours, check out this article). If you’re looking for inspiration, check out websites like Texas Christmas Tree Farms and Peltzer Pines Christmas Tree Farm.

  1. Have Other Goodies Out to Buy

When people come to your farm, it’s the perfect time to show off your produce. You can sell home baked goodies (gingerbread is a holiday favorite!), hot chocolate or cider, winter crops, holly, and mistletoe. But why stop at produce? People love to buy unique gifts for their loved ones during the holidays, so consider selling things like homemade jewelry, baked goods, wood carvings, and more next to your Christmas .

Christmas trees can be a tricky crop, but with plenty of preparation and a marketing plan, you can make more money off of your Christmas tree farm.

Top Land Real Estate Blogs to Follow in 2018

Following land real estate blogs is one of the easiest ways to keep your land and business ahead of the game. The only hard part? Finding blogs with credible sources, useful information, and content that’s up-to-date with the latest real estate news. To help you get the best information for your land, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite land real estate blogs (we left out the RLI blog, since you’re already lucky enough to know about it if you’re reading this post!). In no particular order, here are our top land real estate blogs to follow in 2018:

1. Whitetail Properties blog, The Hunting Blog

Whitetail blog

 

 

This is the go-to blog for anything to do with hunting properties. Need advice about buying or selling hunting land? They’ve got that. Want to learn about the best spots to harvest big game? They’ve got that, too. If you own a hunting property or just love hunting, you have to be following this blog!

2. National Land Realty blog

National Land Realty blog

 

The clean layout of the National Land Realty blog makes it easy to find the articles you want. You can choose from categories like Investing, Ownership, Cabin & Home, and Hunting & Fishing. Our favorite category? Industry News, which will keep you updated on the latest technology and news you need to know. Many of the posts are from their agents, ensuring the authors have hands-on experience in the field.

3. LandThink blog

Land Think Blog

 

Want to make more money with your property? Then this blog is for you. These no-nonsense articles let you know exactly what steps you need to take to get the most out of your property. The “A Land Buyer’s Checklist” series lays out exactly what you need in order to increase a property’s value.

4. Land.com blog

Land.com

 

What’s great about this blog is the wide variety of topics they cover. While the Buying Land and Selling Land sections seem pretty straightforward, the articles in the other sections cover every topic under the sun, ranging from quail sustainability to prepping your home for a natural disaster to fly-fishing. Written by land real estate and ranch experts, you know you’re getting the best information.

5. Landhub.com

Land Hub Blog

 

This blog takes a look at the long-term effects of owning land real estate with articles like “Could Buying Land Be An Investment In Your Child’s Future?” and “What Kind of Damage Can Terminates Do To A Home?”. Be sure to follow this blog if you’re in the real estate game for the long haul. This blog is also chock-full of how-to material for everything from thinning timber to how to sell to Millennials. While this blog’s layout is a little different than the other blogs on this list, it has great information if you are willing to dig around a bit

6. Land Blog… Get The Dirt!

Land Blog

 

 

Did you read our 2017 round up of blogs to watch? You might notice this blog was featured in there as well! This blog is great for people who don’t want to be bombarded with articles. It gives you monthly articles about the nuts and bolts of being successful in the world of real estate. Kent Morris is an ALC (Accredited Land Consultant), so you know you can trust his advice.

7. Harvest Returns blog

Harvest Returns blog

 

Interested in investing in agriculture, but not sure where to begin? This blog breaks down the basics for you and follows the trends of investments and returns. You’ll get a crash course in investing from following this blog and learn all sorts of useful information. For example, did you know that US Farmland investments have a higher annual return than gold? The articles about the latest land laws and regulations are also important to read. They cut through the political jargon to get to the heart of the matter; how the new laws are going to affect you.