on Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Over the last few decades, farms have gotten larger. Farm income has declined for the fourth straight year in Tennessee and Mississippi, which has led many more farmers to leave agriculture.
While fewer people are relying on small farms to fully support their families, more and more are choosing to get their hands dirty by starting hobby farms — with an emphasis on the hobby part.
The Beginner’s Guide to Hobby Farming
If you have the land and the passion, a hobby farm is a great way to grow some of your own food and even supplement your income. Whether you’re turning your backyard into a farm or live on a homestead, there are a few things you need to do before you pick up this new hobby.
1. Do your homework.
Farming isn’t like other hobbies. You’ll certainly learn a lot as you go, but you can’t just buy some equipment and try your hand at a new hobby, like golf or fishing.
A hobby farm is an investment in both your resources and time. To have any success, you need to start with a lot of research and answer some basic questions:
- What animals and crops are best suited for my area?
- Where will I put my farm?
- How much land or what type of structures are needed to support my hobby?
- What type of resources and supplies do I need?
If you’re hoping that your hobby farm brings you a little extra money, you need to do even more planning.
- Set goals for your farm.
- Create a budget.
- Research the market to see what’s in demand or trending in your region.
- Test your soil’s quality and type.
- Identify local farmer’s markets and other ways you can distribute your product.
Hobby farming is a big trend right now, so you can find plenty of information online. But if you really want to know what’s best for your land, connect with your community. Find other hobby farmers who have found success, frequent your local farmers’ market to see how others got started, and talk to bigger farmers who’ve been doing it for years. You’ll get a lot more useful information as well as plenty of connections in the hobby farming community.
2. Plan out your first year.
It’s time to take that farming dream and all the time invested in research and put it into a concrete plan. Assess all the information you’ve collected and time your plan for the right season for your crops or livestock. You wouldn’t want to get started and completely miss growing season the first year.
This is also where your dream has to face reality. You should plan for what you’d like on an ideal hobby farm, but you have to be realistic about your time and money. It is a hobby, after all. Think about how much time each step of your plan will take and build a roadmap. Something that you estimate to only take a few hours may actually be a week, depending on your schedule. Prepare for unexpected setbacks and delays by padding your timeline.
Trust the network you’ve built in the research phase. Run your plan by your fellow hobby farmers to gauge its feasibility and ask for help if you need it. Farmers are a generous bunch, always willing to help out their neighbors. You may get more valuable info, a helping hand, or even some borrowed equipment to help you get going.
3. Find the right equipment for your hobby farm.
Hobby farms are small and manageable, but you may still need to invest in equipment. Farm equipment makes you more efficient. When you can only attend to your farm in your spare time, some horsepower can go a long way and shave off hours of hard work.
Pickup trucks, utility vehicles, compact utility tractors, and lawn tractors are essential on small farms, so that’s the best place to start. If you’re still unsure of your needs or aren’t ready to spend before establishing your farm, you can begin by borrowing from a neighbor or visiting your local agriculture equipment store. Then, once you decide to invest in equipment of your own, you can check the used ag equipment market in your area.
Other Farm Supplies You’ll Need
You’ve done the research. You have a solid plan. You’ve lined up the equipment. You’re ready to start, right?
Well, there are still plenty of things you’ll need to complete all the tasks on your hobby farm on a day-to-day basis. Farm supplies vary greatly depending on whether you’re growing crops or raising animals, but here are some things you’ll find handy:
Lightweight and easy to pull, handcarts help you haul supplies around your farm. They’re great for carrying topsoil, feed, plants, fertilizer, manure, or tools. Some carts have accessories so they can double as tow-behind carts for your UTV or small tractor.
Prepare to stock up at your local hardware or home store because you’re going to need a versatile set of tools. Power tools are a necessity to make many tasks more efficient, but you’ll need hand and garden tools, too. If you don’t have a good collection of tools already, make room in your garage or shed for these necessities:
- Electric power tools: Power drill, circular saw
- Hand tools: Pliers, hammers, ratchet and socket set, wrenches, Phillips and flathead screwdrivers
- Garden tools: Flat and sharp spades, shovels, digging fork, broad fork, hoes
Every farm needs a fence. If you have animals, you need to keep them contained. If you’re growing crops or vegetables, you have to keep animals out. In addition to all the fence posts and fencing materials, you’ll need a post hole digger and a fence post driver to build your fence.
Building a fence can be backbreaking labor, especially if you have more land or live on a homestead. To ease the pain of the project, pair a post hole auger or post hole digger with your compact tractor. Fences will eventually need repair, so the implements can be used again and again over the years.
Starting a hobby farm might feel daunting, but it’s a worthy challenge. Once you get through the planning and set-up and actually get your hands dirty, you’ll find it’s a nice way to spend time after work and on the weekends. And when you start seeing healthy crops or livestock, you’ll reap the rewards of the hard work you put into your new hobby.
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