Buying Property? Holmes Soil and Water Is A Great Resource!

John Lorson, HSWCD District Technician


It’s tough to travel anywhere in the county these days without encountering a series of signs announcing a land auction. For some sellers it’s the capstone to a successful career. They’ve worked hard all their lives, invested years of sweat equity in their land and now is the time to redeem their investment and retire to a much less laborious lifestyle. For others it’s the middle of the road. Tough times on the farm demand tough choices and splitting off a couple of lots can mean the difference between making in through and losing it all. For some that ship has already sailed. It’s tough to know the situation from the outside looking in but you can bet the decision to sell has never come easily.

On the other side of the equation are the folks who are about to begin the dream. By all accounts the land market is hot right now, and it’s not unusual to see country parcels going for premium prices. That’s great for the seller and, presumably, great for the buyer—if they fully understand what they’re buying. One thing is certain, whether we’re talking vacuum cleaners, pick-up trucks or quarter-million-dollar properties, the more research a buyer can do ahead of time the more likely he or she is to be satisfied after the sale.


Here at Holmes Soil and Water we can help you answer some of the most fundamental questions about that piece of land that you’re eyeing, and it all begins with the soil. Using a number of tools here at the office (that are also available directly to you with a good internet connection) we can let you know what to expect from that piece of land in terms of its suitability for your intended use.

Our first go-to resource is Holmes County’s widely admired GIS website. Holmes is fortunate to host one of most robust and up-to-date GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in the state. (Kudos to director Erik Parker!) With a simple search you can dial right in on the property you’re considering and gain tons of information on things like topography, soil type, historical changes in the landscape, and land uses in the immediate and general vicinity. You can also, through a link to the Holmes County Auditor’s records get information on previous sales and appraised values. You can also dial up floodplain mapping to make sure you’ve got room on that parcel to stay high and dry. To check out the website hit this link: Holmes County Ohio GIS.

Another asset that’s readily available to you is the Web Soil Survey. A product of the US Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, Web Soil Survey is a truly astonishing collection of data that includes all of the information found in each volume of the printed Soil Survey guides for the entire United States. In addition to the interactive map the website also enables one to easily generate a report of soil types mapped for your parcel and their suitability for your intended use—from what sort of crops would do well to what type of foundation would be required for a building on the property. Find the site here: “Web Soil Survey”.

While some folks will prefer to dig deep in their own, we always welcome questions here at Holmes Soil and Water and we’ll be happy to guide you in your research. An educated bidder makes for a happy landowner. We’ll do whatever we can to help you become both! Give us a call at 330-674-2811 or stop by our office at 62 West Clinton Street, Millersburg.

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John Lorson came to Holmes SWCD after leaving a career in higher education quite literally for greener pastures. He holds a BS in Biology from The University of Akron where he later worked for ten years—most recently as coordinator of the The University of Akron Millersburg Campus. Prior to that he spent 15 years as an engineering technician with the City of Orrville, dealing with storm water, infrastructure and planning issues. John can assist with conservation planning for your farm, rural property or woodlot. He also deals with storm water management issues, and investigates pollution complaints. Reach John with your conservation concerns at 330-674-2811 or email