The idea of starting your own hobby farm to grow your own food, adorn your table with cut flowers, or raise animals in your back yard resembles a time when things seemed simpler and depicts a way of life that connects us to the land. We seem to yearn for this connection and are drawn to food and goods that come directly from the farm to our table. Whether you are planning to start a hobby farm for yourself or are hoping to share your bounty with others here are some things to keep in mind as you get started.
It’s so tempting to go all-in at once in hopes of seeing your grand vision for your very own hobby farm come to life. However, if you start out small, for example raising goats and growing flowers for cutting, and master those skills in your first season you will find hobby farming a much more enjoyable and rewarding experience.
There is so much to know about raising animals and growing a productive garden and it’s amazing how much you can learn just through trial and error. However, trial and error can often come with heartache and disappointment. I recommend learning as much as you can before diving in so that you know what to expect. I also recommend joining a Facebook group or connecting with someone who has experience raising animals or growing a garden. I have found these types of connections to be very valuable so far in my learning experience.
Be willing to invest your money and time in the success of your farm and do not expect your hobby farm to be profitable. A hobby farm is something you do for pleasure, not profit. Animals (depending on what species) can be expensive to purchase but they also need to eat (more money) and have other needs such as health, maintenance, and vet bills (more money). They also require appropriate enclosures and fencing. This is important for their health and safety and could be as simple as a three-sided lean-to or as elaborate as a large barn. Vegetable and flower gardens also require investment not only in plants and seeds but also (in some cases) an irrigation system, raised planters, and soil amending all of which can add up quickly.
Equip yourself with the proper tools to care for your farm. If you have animals you’ll need to consider where to get their feed, how you will transport it, and where you will store it. For larger animals, this might mean a pickup truck or a small trailer. You’ll also want to think about what you need to provide them with water and food, for storing and spreading bedding, and for cleaning and removing manure on a regular basis.
When growing a garden, depending on your growing zone, you may want to consider starting your seeds in a controlled environment earlier in the year to get a jump start on the season. To do this you might need either a greenhouse or grow lights and seed starting trays. Something that we have added to our gardening regime that has helped tremendously with weeds is landscape fabric that can be purchased in large rolls. Other tools such as irrigation, shovels, snips, rakes, and hoes are deemed necessary for establishing a garden.
Farming is a commitment. It’s about learning the rhythms of your farm, working with the seasons, and providing continuous care. This is something that can easily go overlooked once the zeal of starting your farm has worn off. Many times during the long winter months it feels like my life revolves around caring for our barn animals. While you can put your garden to sleep for the winter, animals on the other hand become more labor-intensive. You will need to consider how you will protect them from the harsh elements and how you will keep their water from freezing. You will also want to ensure you have put up enough hay to last until spring. If you love to travel, you may want to find a reliable barn hand or someone who is willing to help take care of your farm while you are away.
Feel free to make decisions and then change your mind about something. If you are raising chickens but would rather just focus on growing your garden, that’s okay! If you plant seeds and only a couple sprout that’s okay too. The beauty of farming is that the seasons come and go each season presents an opportunity for growth and to learn from your experience. Hobby farming is one of the most labor-intensive hobbies but also so rewarding and fulling.
I love talking to others about our farm, I love all of the babies that are born on our farm each spring and delivering fresh blooms to friends and family throughout the season. These are things that truly nourish my soul and I hope you find joy in some of the same things!