By definition, a hobby farm is a small farm that you build for pleasure or supplemental income. I would add to this definition and say that a Hobby Farm is much more! It’s a complete change of lifestyle for most people. It’s a lot of fun – but can also be a huge learning curve!
What is a Hobby Farm?
- A Hobby Farm can give your children a great learning experience. It will teach them the responsibility of caring for animals. And they will learn how to grow their own food…without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Going organic is a much healthier lifestyle!
- A Hobby Farm will help you be more prepared in case of a local or national emergency. Not only will you have the possibility of growing your own food – but you will also develop a lot of skills to enable you to make do with what you have on hand!
- A Hobby Farm can help you save a lot of money by growing your own meat, vegetables, fruit and berries!
But, don’t bite off more than you can chew! It’s a totally different lifestyle and a lot of work, so ask yourself and your family a lot of questions before you start. Why do you want a Hobby Farm? What advantages do you expect to receive from this adventure? Do you expect to produce supplemental income? Do you want to be more self sufficient? What skills do you have to make it successful? If you have a primary job, will the new location require a lot of travel with a longer drive to work? Do you have the extra money available for setting up your Hobby Farm?
Hobby Farm Ideas
A Hobby Farm can be whatever you want it to be. Consider these ideas and come up with some of your own to decide how to reach your goals:
- Raise Chickens – Sell the birds and/or eggs.
- Raise Rabbits – Sell them to pet stores or online. Rabbit meat is low in fat and higher in protein than chicken. Sell to restaurants?
- Grow Vegetables – Sell them at Farmer’s Markets or roadside stands. Or – they can be preserved and kept for your own use during the winter months.
- Grow Fruit – Apples, Peaches and Berries usually take a few years to get started, but a great way to make your hobby farm pay for itself. Strawberry plants or berries can easily be sold…or preserved.
- Start a Jam & Jelly Business – Sell to specialty shops, online or to restaurants.
- Grow Micro-Greens – these are easy to grow and can be sold to high-end restaurants at a good profit.
- Vegetable Plants – start from seed and sell ready-to-plant vegetables at markets or online.
- Raise Goats – There is a market for goat meat if you are near populations of ethnic people that prefer goat meat in their diet. Or you can breed them for resale.
- Raise Specialty Meats such a ostrich, emu, pheasant, guineas or quail. Again – market to restaurants.
- Breed Puppies or Kittens – Many people breed small animals and sell online or with newspaper ads. This can be a great source of extra income.
- Set up a Sewing Room and make Aprons, T-Shirts or Ball Caps.
- Crafts and/or Woodworking Items – Handmade Christmas items sell online, at shows or Farmer’s Markets.
- Grow Flowers – A fun way to make additional income – Sell to Flower Shops
- Herbs – Medicinal herbs for yourself and also to sell to others. What about culinary herbs for restaurants? Dried herbs can easily be sold online.
- Bees! – You can sell honey! But, bees are becoming harder and harder to keep. Something is killing them off all around the world. Can anyone say ‘pesticides’? Just my thought. My bees were doing fine – then one day they were gone. When I checked the hives – all I found were dead bees! Thousands of them. It was very discouraging.
- Pumpkin Farm? So many ways to sell pumpkins in the fall. Grocery stores, roadside stands, or they can be painted and dressed up for fall decor.
- Christmas Tree Farm? Christmas Tree Adventures is operated by the Diel family. They were our neighbors when we first moved to Tennessee. Such an awesome family!
Hobby Farm ideas are limited only by your imagination! Decide what you enjoy doing – and go for it! Just having a place to keep a couple of horses is a great experience for the whole family!
How Many Acres for a Hobby Farm?
Again, what do you want to do with these acres? It could be a small 5-acre tract or 20-25 acres…depending on what you want or need. Do you need a barn on the property? Or can you build one? Do you need fenced pasture? Do you need garden space? How about a workshop – or a place for one? Greenhouse? Get your answers together and start shopping. You will also need to find out about any zoning inssues that you might run into. Find a great Realtor and explain what you are looking for, and you’ll be on you way to a having your own Hobby Farm! I help many people look for these types of properties. It’s easy for me because it’s what I like as well!
Hobby Farms for Sale
It’s difficult to call acreage listings ‘Hobby Farms’ because so much depends on what you want to do with it. Browse these listings or 5-25 acre tracts in all price ranges. They may or may not be suitable for your needs – but it’s a good place to start! It is easy to find properties suitable for hobby farms in Gallatin, Hendersonville, Bethpage, Castalian Springs, Westmoreland, Cottontown, White House or Portland.
Hobby Farm Tax Deduction
If your Hobby Farm is profitable – it would likely be considered a business, with the accompanying tax deductions. But, until you start making money with it, it would be considered a hobby and therefore not a tax deduction.
Hobby Farm Considerations
If this lifestyle is new to you, it can take several years to become comfortable with it. I have personally been building a Hobby Farm for about five years, and still learning and trying new things. Through much trial & error, here are a few things that I’ve learned the hard way:
- Chickens and landscaping don’t go together! If they run free range, it will reduce your insect population – but there’s no chance of having a nice looking yard. Chickens love mulch and freshly turned dirt. Running free range is also dangerous for them. All God’s animals love a chicken dinner – and they’ll come for your chickens anytime they can catch them. Buzzards, coyotes, dogs, raccoons, foxes…they’ll all be trying to get them! A lot of people saw that having a couple of Great Pyrenees will help because they watch out for predators. If you keep your chickens enclosed, be sure to bury the fencing in concrete – or the critters will just dig under the fence to get your birds. You have to make it impenetrable if you want to keep the birds safe.
- Chickens love all your kitchen vegetable scraps. After the vegetable season, I pull up the plants and put them in the chicken enclosure. They love to eat it all. Throughout the season, I usually grow more than I need and feed tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans and melons to the chickens.
- I don’t like roosters! I’ve had several and they are no longer welcome on my Hobby Farm. They are extremely cruel to the hens and have actually killed several of them. So, I just don’t have them anymore. This means I have to keep adding to my flock because there are no baby chicks being born. Don’t try to add a couple of birds to a flock of 12 or so – because they will fight. However, if you add an equal number of new birds, they seem to get along better.
- Rabbits – If you have meat rabbits, they will need individual cages. I was advised to get 24″x24″ cages, but that seemed to small. Instead I bought the 24″x30″ size and it works well. For breeding, I started with wooden nest boxes – but the rabbits just chew them up. So, I made wire nesting boxes to fit under the cages. I cut a hole in the floor of the cage about 10″x12″ and built a 8″ deep nest box and attached it to the hole that I just cut out. When she gets ready to deliver, I just put a sheet of cardboard on the bottom of the nest box along with a pile of hay. The cardboard keeps the hay from falling through the wire and the mama rabbit builds her own nest…getting it ready for her babies.
When the little ones are born, she will go down into the nest box to deliver – and then jump back up into the cage. She will only go down there to feed and care for them. The babies are almost ready to wean before they can jump out of their nest box. This really gives the mother a break because those babies won’t let her have a minute’s peace if they are in the cage with her. Both the mamas and babies seem to like the new cage design.
More Hobby Farm Considerations – Growing Vegetables!
This one was hard for me. Every year I tried something new. I tried tilling the soil – but never again! Then I tried straw bale gardening and it was ok. You are supposed to prepare the bales before planting with nitrogen. I think I used too much and had huge plants – but very little produce. Then I tried square foot gardening – and it worked much better, but I still wasn’t satisfied. Then I discovered the magic…WOOD CHIPS!! So easy – no tilling – very little digging! My kind of garden!!
The wood chips are easy to find by calling tree service companies. Many of them will deliver them to you because they look for places to dump them. Locate where you want your garden and have them dumped nearby. It is easy to define if you use the square foot garden boxes. Simply lay down cardboard in the bottom and fill the space with wood chips. The cardboard keeps the weeds from growing up through your chips. Don’t plant anything in the chips for at least a year, because they have to season out. Once they are seasoned – I mix mushroom compost – but you could use any good compost material. Mix it all together and you are ready for the best, easiest garden you can imagine! It will require very little fertilizer. So, my end product is a combination of square foot gardening and wood chips/compost mixture. It’s magic!!
- Strawberries – I tried planting them in the wood chip box – and it worked great until the weeds encroached. So, this year, I built a frame of 6×6 posts, and hung (6) 4″x8′ PVC pipe on chains. The pipes are filled with the wood chip mixture and will be ready for planting in the spring. I will use a 3″ hole saw and drill holes all across the pipe (about 12″ apart)…and simply plant strawberry plants in each hole. The strawberries will be up out of the weeds and I can put bird netting over the top and around the sides so the birds won’t eat all the berries. I’m looking forward to this latest idea…and hope it works well.
- Black Raspberries and Blackberries – I installed 4×4 posts and strung strong wire for them to run on and it worked well. But, they grow really fast – so remember to cut them back or they will run everywhere if you don’t keep them under control. Using the wood chips will give you quicker production…berries the first year! Oh, and I think black raspberries have a better taste than blackberries. I’ve planted several blueberry bushes, but so far, not a lot to show for the work involved. Maybe this year??
- Sweet Potatoes – I bought a few slips of sweet potatoes and they grew well. All was fine until I started to dig them up. They were purple!! Who knew that there were so many varieties of sweet potatoes? They tasted ok – but I like the orange variety best. So, that was a learning experience that took a whole year…and a whole crop of sweet potatoes to figure out!
- Tomatoes – I’ve learned that 3 or 4 tomato plants are more than enough for the whole family. And be sure to plant them farther apart that you think you should. My experience is to put them at least 24″ apart. They grow too big and get all twisted together.
- Melons – You’ll plant them and wait all season for your bounty. Then, right before you harvest them – a critter will decide to eat them instead. So, I’ve now built a PVC frame (lid) for the top that I’ll cover with bird netting…and hope it works.
- Cabbage – Impossible unless you keep them covered with fine netting like tulle. I mean covered from the minute you plant them. The moths fly in and lay eggs – and the next thing you know, all your cabbage is ruined!
- Potatoes – Still haven’t figured this one out. I know they are easy to grow – but I’ve not had much luck so far. The best luck has been with the wood chips. I think they also like straw. I’m going to keep working on growing potatoes.
I’ve not tried goats or exotic animals. Nor tried to grow micro-greens. But there are classes if you want to learn how to grow them for income. The micro-greens can be grown inside if you have the available space. You’ll want to research the different grow lights, as there are full spectrum LED lights that are coller and take less energy. There are halide bulbs that will require a lot more energy, but may be better for your set up. I’ve tried to grow some vegetables inside and found that they take longer to mature. Not to mention those little fruit flies…that apparently are in the soil just waiting for you to provide moisture for them to emerge and aggravate you to death. They get all over the house. So, that idea didn’t turn out so well.
Another thing you might want to keep in mind if you raise animals. You’ll be responsible for their health. This could mean vet or other medical bills, or it could mean the loss of your animals if disease breaks out.
But, all in all, I love the experience.
Something new every day! It’s a lot of trial and error, as you can see from my adventures. It is hard work, but in case of a natural disaster, you will be much more prepared to deal with it if you have a Hobby Farm. It will help make responsible adults of your children and possibly give you a nice additional income stream.
Be sure to do your planning for the future. Water is critical, so will you have to lay down irrigation lines – or is there a pond or creek that will be sufficient for your needs? Gardens do well if you have a nice southern exposure for planting. Just think it through – and plan ahead and your actual implementation will be much easier!
We would love to help you find your Hobby Farm. It’s so easy to call 615-428-8500 or contact us. There are many areas nearby that we can find for your Hobby Farm – and still give you easy access to Nashville or wherever you work.
I look forward to hearing from you soon!