By its very definition, a hobby farm is not designed to make money. That is an important distinction to keep in mind because, unlike a small farm, you must have a separate income or wealth set aside to live on. At the same time, most hobby farmers are not interested in becoming self-sufficient. They enjoy the passion of raising food and animals with their loved ones. Here are several factors to keep in mind if you’re thinking of setting up a hobby farm with your family.
Before you and your family start a hobby farm, you need to perform detailed research. You need to know what crops will grow in your area. You also need to know what equipment you need to buy new and which to buy used. If you are going to be raising animals, then you need to understand what makes a great market animal, common medical problems, and which animals and breeds will thrive in your environment. If you have children, be mindful of how they might interact with the animals. If you end up raising animals that are larger, advise your kids to avoid those animals until they are a little older and can behave around them.
Think About Finances
Owning and operating a hobby farm can be expensive. It gets even trickier when putting the finances of your family into play. You need to create a detailed financial plan. Understand that if you are trying to start a hobby farm in the United States as a tax break, there are none. You will need to upgrade to at least a small farm. You may still be able to sell some of your products to the public as a hobby farmer to earn money to put back into the farm. If your family is going to raise animals, then you need some cash set aside for veterinary care. You also need money put back for machine repairs as there are often short windows of time when tasks must be completed.
It is essential to start out small when your family decides to start a hobby farm. You can quickly eat through all your savings and have nothing to show for all your hard work. This can put you and your family in a tough spot. At the same time, you will make mistakes and need to learn from them. If you start out too big, then it can be hard to learn everything you need to know to be successful at one time. You may also discover that while you thought that you would enjoy owning a hobby farm, you actually hate it, so you want money available to pursue something else.
Decide What You Want to Grow
Many different factors go into deciding which plants your family should grow. You may want to consider which vegetables your kids enjoy eating the most. Then, consider the number of growing days in your environment. Find out which plants thrive in climates similar to yours. For example, if you live in a warm climate, then growing cool weather vegetables can be challenging — and vice versa. You also need to consider the number of hours of sunlight and the average rainfall. Have your soil tested and see what you must do to amend it. You will also need to decide if growing vegetables organically or growing heirloom vegetables is right for you. Finally, you need to learn about common pests and weeds and effective means of fighting them.
Depending on the size and type of hobby farm that you want to start, you may need a variety of farm equipment. Almost every hobby farm needs some kind of tractor, but the size depends on how large your hobby farm is going to be and what type of hobby farm you want to create. When choosing a tractor, consider one with a canopy. A tractor canopy will protect you from dangers while driving a tractor or similar vehicle. You may spend many hours in the sun when driving a tractor, and the canopy helps keep the sun off of you, which can help you stay hydrated and may help prevent skin cancer. Be sure to teach your kids to be careful around machinery. It can be really dangerous to any person but especially young children. Teach them proper safety precautions for when they’re using or are around the machinery.
Join a Farming Community
It is essential not to try to start a hobby farm by yourself. Instead, you need to find a farming community where people will share their favorite tips for you and your family to learn from regularly. Social media can be a great asset in connecting with other farmers who share the same dream. You may also want to consider programs like the United States Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant. This will help you get financing to start your hobby farm while connecting you with a mentor who will guide and teach you.
Plan Your Animals
The size of your farm will help determine which animals your family can raise successfully. For example, chickens take up much less space than cattle. They are also a great, small animal that kids can interact with easily. Regardless of which type of animal that you decide to raise, concentrate on getting that best quality foundation stock that you can afford. It costs the same amount of money to feed a quality animal as a poorer one, and they will produce better offspring for you. If you are raising goats, pigs, lambs, cattle, or meat rabbits, take a special look at their hindquarters. It should have a “C” shape in the hindquarters because this allows plenty of room for the animal to put on meat, which you can later enjoy on the table.
Another aspect that you will want to consider before starting a hobby farm is a time commitment. You need to take both you and your kids’ schedules into consideration. If they participate in a lot of after school activities and aren’t able to help on your hobby farm as much as you’d like, it might be wise to reconsider. If you are growing food, then you may need to water the plants daily. You also need to inspect for pests and make sure that no weeds get started. If you are going to raise animals on your hobby farm, then the time commitment may be even more. Animals seem to have babies when the weather is absolutely at its worst. A sick animal can quickly cancel your dinner plans. Make sure everyone in your family is on the same page.
Make Room for Fun
At the end of the day, however, operating a hobby farm can be a lot of fun. You and your family have the opportunity to grow closer and make memories together. You will experience the joys of picking a harvest that you have worked hard to produce. Your collective labor will produce the meat that you put on your dinner table. Your kids will also learn a great sense of worth ethic that they may not learn anywhere else.
These are just a few of the things to think about before starting a hobby farm. Overall, running a hobby farm can be rewarding. It can be a great way to enjoy a quieter way of life in a rural area where people still enjoy being neighborly.