In the city, we measure the value of real estate by square feet. You might find a nice one-bedroom apartment in downtown for $1.96 per square foot. Rent is paid monthly on annual leases.
In the country, we measure the value of real estate by the acre. The cost per acre varies widely depending on the region, soil type and fertility, market trend, etc. If renting, rent is often due annually or bi-annually. Leases range from one year to five years and up.
Standard of measurement is not the only thing that marks a difference between city and country real estate. Vertical space, for example, is used significantly more in the city than in the country. But the greatest difference I see between city and country real estate is the amount of time committed to a space.
I will use myself for illustration:
After my husband and I married, we moved every two years between apartments around the Twin Cities until we finally bought a place in Saint Paul. Even then, we anticipated selling the property in five to seven years.
Now that we have become more involved on my family’s farm, and are thinking about a home in the country, we are considering what features we would need in that home that will accommodate us into old age: few stairs or a single-level floor plan, for example.
We could potentially live in that country home—God willing—for 50+ years! This intended time commitment to a space is quite a shift from our former 2-year-apartment-hopping lifestyle, and it is directly influenced by occupation.
Allow me to explain.
Farming is a stationary occupation. Meaning, farmers do not typically move from state to state or corporation to company as people with office jobs do when positions become available. It would be very costly just to move assets (such as farm equipment) across the country, or sell, then buy farm machinery in a different location like one would do with IKEA furniture.
But more importantly, the longer a farmer farms a plot of land, the better she knows how to manage that land’s special set of flaws and invest in its virtues to produce the best yields.
Land is like a living organism, and farming is like entering into a relationship with it. One could argue Land has personality; each plot has its own weaknesses, its own strengths. And like a relationship, each plot of land requires attention and time for a farmer to understand it and maintain it.
Because of this strong relationship and commitment between farmer and land, or even simply because land is a valuable asset and property, it can behave like a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation. For some family farms, the value of real estate is not only in the land’s yield potential and current market price, but also extends to a historical and even sentimental value.
My father and I still farm land purchased in 1886 by my great-great grandfather, Ole Viker. It has been in my family for 128 years. In farming, land that has been in a family for generations is sacred. It’s a symbol of an enduring heritage and evidence of a long-standing tradition.
In the city—where development and construction is constant—to preserve a property as heritage, we must go through the hoops of declaring it as a historical site. And even then, it may not be considered as having enough historical value for such a declaration.
Imagine what a city would look like, how it would operate if it were common that property were preserved. I find it hard to imagine, but the movie “Up” comes to mind.
I am not opposing development and change in a city. It’s often necessary. But with people coming and going with the hum and buzz of urban life, it is hard to find enough people to care about preservation, or to pause and reflect on our history.
We in the country are blessed, I think, to be so close, so daily involved with the pillars of our heritage.