Penny Gordon swore to herself that she was not going to be a farmer. Growing up on a 20-acre farm right outside the center of town in Zinc, Sun State, Penny longed for the minute she could escape to college and leave her rural roots behind. And for a while, she did exactly that. Penny worked in a bustling city as a marketing manager for 25 years before the death of her parents brought her back to Zinc. Dragging Mark, her urban-raised husband reluctantly along, Penny returned to her inheritance and threw herself into the world of farming with a fierce desire to continue her parents’ legacy and preserve their vision of Zinnia Farm.
After a few years, tensions were high between Penny and Mark. Mark was not charmed by the rural way of life, nor the cold and blustery winters that Zinc was known for. Penny and Mark had a son who lived with his wife in sunny Calisun. One day, their son called up to give his parents the exciting news that they could expect a grandchild in the coming year. Penny and Mark decided that the time was right to make the move to Calisun to repair their marriage and be there while their grandchild grows up. But, before they can take off, Penny has to figure out what to do with her land and Zinnia Farm.
One day, Penny is at the local co-op chatting with some other farmers about her dilemma: She wants to move off the land, but it’s important to her to ensure that Zinnia Farm will continue to prosper in the hands of passionate and caring farmers, as her parents would have wanted. A co-op customer, Claire O’Conner, overhears this conversation and can’t believe her luck. She and her husband, Frank, had just decided the week prior to pursue their dream of starting a small produce farm and CSA and to begin the search for a suitable piece of land.
Penny and Claire start talking and immediately hit it off. Claire voices her only concern: She isn’t sure that she and Frank have good enough credit to obtain a mortgage from the bank to buy land. One of the other farmers tells Penny and Claire about an option that they had never heard of before: a land contract. The farmer describes the land contract, also known as a contract for deed, as a financing strategy similar to a mortgage, but leaving the bank out of it. It’s a way for a buyer to take the physical possession of the land while the seller retains the legal title. The buyer makes installment payments to the seller until the contract is fully paid—at that time legal title transfers to the buyer.
The concept of a land contract appeals to both Penny and Claire. Claire realizes that this is the best way for her and Frank to manifest their farming dreams, and Penny likes the idea of getting monthly income from the “rent” for her land while resting assured that the farm is in good hands. One potential downside for Penny is that some of her money would be locked up in the land as the O’Conners pay off the contract, but she and her husband are planning on moving in with their son and wouldn’t need the capital to purchase a new home. Penny and Claire exchange information and make a date for the O’Conners to come check out the property.