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It May Be Time to Consider a Rural Lifestyle

It May Be Time to Consider a Rural Lifestyle

By Shannon Gilmore and Meg Mullery

Dream about moving to a rural area and owning a “farmette” or hobby farm with vegetable and flower gardens, chickens and even horses?  We live that dream every day in beautiful Western Loudoun where we enjoy our horses, dogs, cats, chickens, starry nights and stunning sunsets.

Bookended by the Capitol and the Blue Ridge Mountains, Western Loudoun, Clarke, Fauquier and Rappahannock counties offer unlimited opportunities to turn your vision into a reality. And even start a small business for fun and extra income.

For starters, owning horses is a commitment, but plenty of resources exist in the form of farm stores, feed and hay experts, vets, county extension agents, and other horse owners who will willingly answer questions and provide advice.

Very briefly, size and location, barn/stable, and fencing need consideration  when buying an equestrian property or farmette.

  1. 1. Size/ Location
  • Ideally, horses require at least two acres per horse, although horses are kept on smaller acreage all the time.
  • County zoning must allow for the keeping of horses.
  • A tax break may exist if the property is in land use or conservation easement.
  • Does the property suit your desires? For example, can you add a riding ring or will you be happy just to care and enjoy them.
  • Water source in rural areas typically is a well. You want to ensure that water is accessible to the paddocks.
  1. 2. Barn/ Stable
  • What type and how many stalls will be needed to best suit your purpose?
  • Does structure have cold/hot water? Electricity? Storage for hay and equipment. Outdoor lighting?

Effective drainage to ensure barn does not flood in a heavy rain.

  1. 3. Fencing
  • What is the type and condition of fencing?     
  • Be an educated consumer when it comes to the cost of fencing, which can run between $8-$12 per linear foot depending on type and another $2 per foot to paint it.
  • Gates need to be in working condition, i.e., can you open and close them easily?

Worth noting, programs exist that can be financially beneficial to the property owner if the property has ponds or creeks that are part of a watershed.

The foregoing touches only on some considerations. Horse ownership can seem intimidating, but resources are readily available to provide advice and guidance.

Horses produce manure, of course. And manure can be a money maker. Seasoned manure becomes fertilizer AKA Black Gold. Look to the mushroom farmers in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, for an indication of its value. They regularly send trucks to a large equestrian facility in Loudoun County to load up manure and return with tons of Black Gold.  Horse owners do the same for their gardens or sell or barter it.

Establishing a small business encompasses a range of skills and is limited only by your creativity.  If horse manure isn’t your thing, here are just a few ways to embrace your inner entrepreneur.

Chickens are a popular backyard starter. They are quite charming and surprisingly more like pets than a barnyard animal.  Couple of fun facts: Chickens have their own language and can recognize and respond to their names; and, luckily for humans, they love to snack on ticks.  An added bonus are eggs for eating or for sale or barter.  Grocery shopping becomes less frequent when swapping eggs for zucchini with your neighbor.   

Beehives provide another money-making hobby. Low start-up costs lead to uniquely delicious honey that can be sold at local farmers markets or is always a welcome gift for family and friends. Bees also play an important role in supporting native plants and the environment. It is always a special day when the neighbor leaves a jar of honey on the back step.

Lavender proved to be an innovative and profitable hobby for a small farm in Loudoun County. Most weekends, the farm is open to the public where the lovely purple flower can be self-harvested for a fee or purchased in dry bundles, along with lavender soap, candles, and even lavender scones.   

Farm fresh eggs and warm scones smothered in honey, tempted yet?

Questions about the new reality due to the current pandemic situation revolve around a dramatic shift in how we conduct all aspects of our lives. Google recently announced its employees will continue to work remotely well into 2021, and many companies are following Google’s lead. Adult and childhood learning will continue online for the foreseeable future. “Zoom” has zoomed into our personal and professional lives providing new and creative ways to experience happy hours, meet with clients, and schedule those team meetings that formerly took place in conference rooms.

While it’s impossible to predict how all this plays out, it may be time to explore a rural lifestyle and make the country life dream a reality. We are living it and happy to answer questions and share our experience.

A rural way of life may be just what Dr Fauci ordered.


Shannon Gilmore and Meg Mullery are licensed real estate agents with the Middleburg office of Washington Fine Properties. Their backgrounds—teaching school, lobbying, media relations, city living—seemingly were not a good fit for owning horses and a rural lifestyle, but they took the risk and have no regrets.

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