Are you interested in starting a small hobby farm?
Curious what exactly one is?
Well, hobby farms are not for profit.
They are a passion project that individuals take on for joy or therapeutic purposes.
As a perk, they often use them to feed their families or sell their small yield at local farmer’s markets.
If this sounds up your alley, keep reading to learn all you need to know about starting your very own hobby farm.
1. What is hobby farming?
A hobby farm is a small-scale farm that is primarily for pleasure instead of profit or business gain.
The owners of a hobby farm typically have some other primary source of income like an off-farm job, pension, or retirement income that allows them to live.
The hobby farm is exactly what it sounds like – a hobby.
Thus, if you don’t experience a favorable seasonal yield, then it is considered more of a disappointment than a real financial loss.
Hobby farms are also generally categorized according to their size of fewer than 50 acres.
2. How do you start a hobby farm?
Looking to start your own hobby farm?
Just keep reading!
We have all the tips that you need to know.
Research, research, research
You’re not the first person to become a hobby farmer, and the best part about this is the fact that you have material to read.
Make sure to do your research!
This will allow you to have the knowledge that can help you throughout the process and if any issues or obstacles arise.
Talk to other farmers
Reading and doing research online are great tools, but never underestimate the power of talking to others who have experience in this area.
Who do you know who shares this hobby or passion?
What do they wish they knew before getting started?
Is there anything they would do differently?
What tips and tricks can they offer you?
Having a mentor can make all the difference!
Hobby farms are categorized as any farm that is smaller than 50 acres.
Yet, that can still be quite a bit of farm for anyone who isn’t experienced.
With a lot of hobbies, they tell you to jump in with both feet and just go for it.
However, you can often risk getting overwhelmed and wanting to quit altogether if you do this.
If you try to plant a garden AND care for three or four species at one time while learning everything there is to know about hobby farming, you may not leave yourself enough time to adjust.
Take a deep breath and start one project at a time.
You know how much you can handle.
If you’re still working another job, then it’s worth considering just how much time you truly have to dedicate to your hobby farm.
Maybe you should just start a garden this year and get that kicked off.
If you’re retired, maybe you can handle a bit more (but you don’t have to!).
Remember, if you have a lower rate of failure, you’ll generally feel more encouraged to continue.
It’s worth taking it slowly and growing year over year.
You don’t have to have a full-fledged hobby farm in just a few months.
Don’t try to make yourself profitable
A hobby is something you do for pleasure, not profit, and that’s exactly what a hobby farm is intended to be.
If you’re trying to run a true business where you earn more than a few thousand dollars at a farmer’s market, then you’re no longer a hobby farmer.
Get into a hobby farming for the fun of it and for no other reason.
Don’t incur debt
Because you’re not into hobby farming for the profit, it also shouldn’t put you into debt.
You can put some money into it, but it should never be a lot of money or more money than you have.
Save money for what you need and grow slowly and organically.
Embrace the DIY life
There’s no rush when it comes to hobby farming.
This is the time to learn all there is to learn about farm life.
If something breaks, pop on a YouTube video and see if you can learn yourself.
Or ask someone locally if they know how and can teach you.
Remember, if you spend one season learning something, you’ll know for the rest of your life!
Know when to get expert help
That said, there are some tasks that you may never know how to do, or it would simply take you far too long to do.
When that’s the case, don’t hesitate to reach out to get an expert’s help.
You want the best for your hobby farm, and it’s not a failure on your part to recognize that and reach out for help if/when you need it.
Take your time
The best thing about having a hobby is that there is no rush.
Farming is a commitment, and you can’t be expected to know everything instantly.
Embrace the learning process and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.
You may end up loving the farm life even more than you expected!
Hobby farming is often great for those in retirement because they get to dedicate a great deal of their time to something that brings them joy.
Your farm is what you make it.
Some people think they’ll love raising livestock and poultry, but it turns out they actually enjoy agriculture and gardening more.
Who could have known?
Be flexible and allow this to become your passion project.
Wherever your passion leads you, go!
Don’t take yourself too seriously
This should be a fun hobby that you pick up!
You should enjoy it and find that it enriches your life.
Do it as much or as little as it pleases you.
It shouldn’t be stressful, and if it becomes so, know that you have the ability to step back or do it part time.
3. What’s the difference between hobby farming and homesteading?
Hobby farmers and homesteaders differ first in their motives.
Hobby farmers typically pursue farming because of their interest in the farming itself.
Homesteaders choose their route because they have a primary goal of self-sufficiency.
They often work on their farms as a way to detach themselves from the outside world.
A hobby farmer is just doing it because they enjoy the work.
Overall, there can be some overlap between hobby farming and homesteading, but it mostly depends on how the individual farmer identifies.
4. Should I start a hobby farm?
It’s really up to you!
A hobby farm is often a passion project, and there are no hard-and-fast rules about what constitutes it, so you have some flexibility when it comes to deciding what you want.
You should note that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service disqualifies hobby farms from receiving tax breaks that it gives small-farm owners.
So, if you’re looking for some kind of tax break for the work you’re doing on your small farm, you’ll need to be prepared to prove your business operations and income.
Otherwise, you’ll miss out on these by being designated as a hobby farm.
5. What are the pros of starting a hobby farm?
If there weren’t any pros to hobby farming, no one would ever start one.
Farming can be someone’s profession, but it can also be a hobby that brings them great joy.
Here’s why you may consider adding it as something you do “just for fun.”
Hobby farming is healthier
When you hobby farm, you’re growing your own food, and these are typically healthy vegetables and animal products.
You and your family will always have farm-fresh meat and eggs to eat throughout the year, and you won’t rely on any processed food from the grocery store.
You’ll also get plenty of exercise as you perform your hobby farming duties.
Over time, you’ll grow healthier because of this.
It’s a health win!
Hobby farming is therapeutic
For many people who do it, hobby farming is a type of therapy.
It is a stress reliever and brings them an abundance of joy.
While it may seem like work to some, it is never work for these individuals.
It is a healing activity that allows them to rejuvenate their mind, body, and soul.
They could stop, but they constantly ask themselves, “Why would I want to?”
Hobby farming is practical
When you hobby farm, you’re growing a good portion of your own food.
If you have all that land to yourself, why wouldn’t you want to do this?
Eating those first farm-fresh vegetables or eggs can be surprisingly rewarding!
Hobby farming is self-sustaining
And when it’s that practical, it becomes self-sustaining!
Think about how much you save when you don’t have to buy your food from the grocery store.
You won’t be pinching pennies anymore when you have a hobby farm to help keep you afloat!
6. What are the cons of starting a hobby farm?
While hobby farms are incredibly practical and therapeutic, they’re not without their drawbacks.
Here are some reasons you’ll want to think about how a hobby farm fits into your life before you get started.
Hobby farms don’t provide a lot of tax breaks
The IRS doesn’t provide tax breaks for hobby farming, and you’ll want to check with your local government to see if you get any benefits there.
For example, some areas will give you tax breaks on farm-related purchases.
However, this requires you to have a farm tax ID, which can dictate quotas that you need to meet.
If you’re just getting started, this can be stressful.
You’ll want to be aware of how these tax rules and regulations will impact you financially.
Hobby farms are a lot of work
Hobby farms are rewarding because of the work that you put into them.
However, they’re work all year long, in every type of weather, and whether or not they produce any type of yield.
This can be incredibly discouraging for some hobby farmers because they don’t always see the fruit of their hard work.
If you’re not ready to take on a big project, then a hobby farm may not be for you.
It can absolutely be fulfilling, but you have to be ready to put dozens of hours a week into it.
Hobby farms are a lot of responsibility
If you’re considering hobby farms as your retirement plan or just a side gig, first consider the amount of responsibility you’re taking on.
A great way to visualize this is by imagining your last vacation.
Before you left, what did you do?
Did you pack your bags and leave without a second thought?
With a hobby farm, you won’t be able to pick up and travel.
Nope, instead, you’ll need to find someone that can come check on your animals, feed them, give them water, water your garden, collect your eggs, and pick any fruit and vegetables if needed.
Year-round you have a farm that needs to be maintained.
You’re taking on another project that has an immense amount of responsibility attached to it.
There are many perks to this, but those won’t come without hard work and responsibility.
7. How do I know if I want my farm to be my hobby?
Farming isn’t a hobby for everyone.
There are thousands of farmers around the country who use farming as their primary source of income.
This isn’t what hobby farming is, and you should know going into this adventure whether or not you’ll be trying to turn a profit.
Fortunately, we have nine factors to consider when deciding if farming for profit is a realistic goal for you.
Will you run the farm in a businesslike manner with accurate books?
Will you spend your time and effort to show intent to make a profit?
Is the farm income your livelihood as a taxpayer?
Are your current losses due to special circumstances?
Will you (as the taxpayer) change operations to improve profitability?
Do you (as the taxpayer) possess the required knowledge to make this a profitable venture?
Do you (as the taxpayer) expect to make a profit from asset appreciation?
8. What do I need before I start hobby farming?
Land is a crucial piece of hobby farming, so be sure to factor in all of the following considerations before deciding to start this project.
At the very least, you will need a property that can support livestock shelters and a pasture for grazing.
The land should also provide firm footing for your animals.
On top of this, you will also need:
Livestock typically forage, so you want to make sure your pasture can supply sufficient food for the type and quantity of livestock you are looking to raise.
Assume that your livestock will consume 2% of their body weight in feed each day.
If possible, a farm with a pond or creek that is viable throughout the year is preferable.
If you cannot construct a pond, then stock tanks or another automatic water system is the preferred solution.
Know your projected water needs ahead of time and also come up with an emergency plan.
Livestock require a lot of water, and you want to be prepared in the event of a power outage or well failure.
Shelter is necessary for livestock, so research the proper livestock shelters depending on which types you’re raising.
Soil quality, texture, and contour will vary depending on your location.
This is another important consideration to make about your land.
You will want to conduct a soil test and a forage test before purchasing a parcel of land.
No matter how small your hobby farm, you should have a tractor with implements.
You will also need handling equipment, grooming supplies, trailers, healthcare items, and a pick-up truck.
The health of your livestock is imperative.
Get a veterinarian and ask your doctor for a list of what veterinarian supplies you should have on-hand at your farm.
There you have it!
Hobby farming is well within your reach if you’re interested in pursuing it.
Just make sure you continue to do your research and take it slow.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.