How to Start a Hobby Farm

Woman stands in her pasture with basket of organic herbs and free range cattle in the background, KwaZulu Natal Province, South Africa
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If you want to start a hobby farm, you probably have a lot of questions about how and where to begin. What do you need to know before you take the next step of buying a hobby farm and beginning to farm? What things should you consider as you move forward?

What Is Hobby Farming?

Before you can decide you do want to start a hobby farm, make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Hobby farming means that you're not trying to run a small farm business where your farming products will be a main source of income. And it means that your goal isn't total self-sufficiency like a homesteader. However, it's also, however, you define it: you could sell some eggs, or broilers, or vegetables, and still consider yourself a hobby farmer. But if your primary income is from running your farm, you've got a business.

Also, many people who consider themselves hobby farmers have money to spend on livestock, equipment, and buildings. In contrast, homesteaders are often trying to work on a shoestring and spend as little money as possible on investing in their farm. And where a small business farmer may invest in the same items as a hobby farmer, he or she will expect that investment to come back as they generate income on the farm. A hobby farmer may not be concerned with getting back their investment and being "in the black."

Who Are Hobby Farmers?

Hobby farmers don't fit neatly into a stereotype. Some are retirees who are living on pensions and finally have the time and energy to devote to a lifelong passion, raising animals or growing vegetables and running a small-scale farm. Others are young professionals who want to devote their weekends and mornings to animals and vegetables, but who have careers in areas other than farming, and see their hobby farm as just that - a hobby in addition to their careers. Plenty doesn't fall into either category, but still, consider the farming they do to fall into the "hobby" category.

First Steps for Hobby Farmers

If you want to establish a hobby farm, you will need to begin by planning and setting goals. Consider what animals and crops you'd like to raise. Assess your land and resources, or get an idea of what you're looking for if you want to buy a farm. And write out a one-year plan.

Next Steps for Starting Your Hobby Farm

After setting goals, choosing animals and crops, and making the first-year plan, it's time to take action. How can you achieve your first goal? If you want to start a hobby farm, your first step may be finding and purchasing an existing farm. If you already live on your soon-to-be hobby farm, your first step may be to build a chicken coop for the chickens you decided to start with, or perhaps just get an existing barn set up for goats.

Talk to Your Neighbors

If you're going to hobby farm where you already live, try to seek out farmers who are already doing what you want to do. Ask them about their experiences.

Set Your Budget

Decide how much farm you want to buy. Make sure that if you're buying in a depressed, very rural location, you won't end up under water or with a farm so out of proportion to area values that you will have a hard time reselling if needed.

Tailor your search to what you need and what you can afford. Don't think that you need dozens and dozens of acres. Take the time to map out exactly how much land you need for what your farming goals are.

If you can't afford to buy a farm, consider whether farm caretaking is right for you.

Wait For What You Really Want

Don't be afraid to look for the right farm for you for a while. Months, maybe a year or more, depending on the area where you are looking.

Don't settle for second best. Buying a hobby farm is a big investment and not one that is easily reversed. Make sure that the property you are buying meets all your requirements.

Monitor and Reassess

As you move through each goal in your hobby farm plan, you may decide to reevaluate. Be open and stay flexible - life is full of surprises! For example, you may find that raising chickens for meat is more work than you anticipated and that getting goats may have to wait a while longer than you thought. That's okay! Farming successfully is all about being flexible and open to adjusting your plan, while still staying true to your overarching reasons for farming and your big-picture goals.