10 Things to Consider When Starting Your Hobby Farm
Over the past few years, gardening has seen a renaissance. With the anxiety from the uncertainty of lockdown and hardware and home improvement stores being some of the few retailers open, people went outside and began to dig like never before. But not only did gardening have a resurgence, but farming did, too, in many shapes and sizes, from homesteading to urban agriculture and hobby farming.
So what is hobby farming?
No need to overthink it, a hobby farm can have a few definitions, but for the most part, it is precisely what it sounds like. Simply put, hobby farmers are in it for the benefits that are not necessarily financial gains, and they don’t rely on their farms to support their lives. If hobby farmers were to quit their farms today, it wouldn’t prevent them from being able to survive. It’s the joys and challenges of farming without the high risks of a business venture.
So if you keep bees or raise chickens and grow some of your own food, you too can be considered a hobby farmer.
So maybe you’re thinking about becoming a hobby farmer, but you want to know the benefits.
Here are 3 benefits to having your own hobby farm:
We don’t all get to live life off the grid, but we can have our own little piece of independence. Growing your family’s food in the garden or raising livestock can feel liberating. Not to mention, in today’s economic climate, with food prices soaring, there’s no better time than now to produce the food that you and your family consume.
If done organically, creating an ecosystem on your property can tremendously benefit the environment. Growing food organically reduces the number of harmful chemicals polluting our environment and waterways while nourishing your soil. Growing plants also absorb carbon dioxide and air pollutants while releasing clean oxygen. A dense plant cover can also prevent erosion, preventing the release of sediments into waterways.
3. Therapeutic Benefits
Spending time outdoors on its own can increase feelings of calmness, restore the ability to focus, and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. A study from Yale School of Environment found: “Two hours spent in natural environments were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t.” When you consider these benefits, in addition to all the healthy homegrown food you’ll be eating. What better therapy could there be?
There’s always a flip side to things, and nobody said being a farmer was easy.
Here are 3 challenges that come with hobby farming:
1. It’s hard work
If you’re not careful, that hobby could become a full-time job. If gardening, weeding, and harvesting aren’t enough, try adding some livestock to the mix. But that’s not to discourage anyone; be prepared to dig, plow, shear, and clean up after those new animals you acquired.
Like all gratifying things in life, there will be some responsibility attached to it. This means no more last-minute surf trips to Mexico for the week; someone has to be home to water and feed the animals. Passing up on a little bit of freedom to come and go from home whenever one chooses seems like a small sacrifice when considering all a hobby farm has to offer.
3. Financial burden
We saved the best for last. The thing nobody wants to mention when discussing their hobbies is their cost of them. While the rewards of farming can be life-changing, it comes with a price. For example, the price of a dairy cow in California can range from $2,000 to $5,000. That’s a lot to get started. But if raw milk is your thing, and you do the math. A cow can produce roughly 2,000 gallons of milk annually, with raw milk prices at $20 a gallon. That’s much dough you could save on dairy costs, with some milk to make into other things like butter and cheese. But being as optimistic as we can be, there are start-up costs, and mistakes will be made along the way.
So what’s the difference between a Hobby Farm and a Homestead?
The significant difference is that homesteaders’ main goal is complete and total self-sufficiency. For hobbyists, it’s a fun project, but for homesteaders, it’s a whole way of life.
Here are 4 steps to making your hobby farm a reality:
1. Research and Planning
Depending on the endeavor, there’s a lot to consider. You’ll want to know your goals. Say you want chicken for fresh eggs every morning; well, researching the fact that chickens can fly over your fence is a valuable thing to know before deciding to build a coup.
Another thing to consider with livestock is that there might not be local help when it comes to sharing and maintaining the health of animal hooves. Another thing is zoning restrictions when it comes to owning livestock. These are just a few things to consider before acquiring those beasts of burden for the farm.
2. Working within your means
It’s also good to have some realistic expectations and understand your limitations. Start with something small and then work up to a full-fledged farm. Start with a garden one season and ensure the lifestyle is for you before making those bigger, more costly commitments.
3. Create an ecosystem
Once you get the garden going and there’s plant waste and other compostables to create soil, consider how you can take things a step further. Integrating livestock into the horticulture process can be rewarding and cost-effective. Plants give animals what they need and visa versa. With proper planning, your farm can become self-sustaining.
4. Consider the economics
There are many ways to save money when constructing your farm. One way is to make sure irrigation systems function correctly. Consider water harvesting methods in the wet season to provide your hobby farm water all year.
Being a farmer is a lifestyle, and typically a healthy one. I hope these insights have helped you decide to start a hobby farm yourself someday soon.