How to Start a Hobby Farm

What It Is and Isn't

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 It Is and Is Not

Before you decide if you want to start a hobby farm, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Hobby farming means that you are 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 is not total self-sufficiency like a homesteader. However, it is also, how you define it. For instance, 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, then that is different, you have 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.

If you are a small business farmer, then you may invest in the same items as a hobby farmer, but the main difference is that you will expect that investment to come back as you generate income on the farm. A hobby farmer is usually not concerned with getting back their investment and being "in the black."

Are You a Hobby Farmer?

Quite simply, you can be. Hobby farmers do not 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 like 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 may have careers in areas other than farming, and see their hobby farm as just that—a hobby in addition to their careers.

Plenty others do not fall into either category, but still, consider the farming they do to fall into the "hobby" category.

First Steps

If you want to establish a hobby farm, you will need to begin by planning and setting goals. Consider what animals and crops you would like to raise. Assess your land and resources, or get an idea of what you are looking for if you want to buy a farm. Write out a one-year plan. Follow the following steps for getting started:

Next Steps

After setting goals, choosing animals and crops, and making the first-year plan, it is time to take action. Look at how you go about achieving your first goal, which may be finding and purchasing an existing farm.

If you already live on your soon-to-be hobby farm, your next 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 the Neighbors

If you're going to hobby farm where you already live, seek out farmers who are already doing what you want to do. Ask them about their experiences. The information you gather can be invaluable for how, when, and where you start your farm.

Set Your Budget

Decide how much farm you want to buy. You need to make sure that if you are buying in a depressed, very rural location, that you will not end up underwater or with a farm so out of proportion to area values that you will have a hard time reselling if you need to.

Tailor your search to what you need and what you can afford. Do not 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.

In some cases, you might not be able to afford to buy a farm just yet, so consider whether a role as a part-time farm caretaker is right for you. Doing a little farming on the side might just be the hobby you need to wet your whistle.

Wait For What You Really Want

Do not be afraid to look for the right farm for you for as long as it takes. It can take months, sometimes a year or more, depending on the area where you look. Also, do not 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 to what you learn through the process. 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. Be OK with that. Farming successfully is all about being flexible and staying open to adjusting your plan. You can still stay true to your overarching reasons for farming and your big-picture goals.