By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
Creating a hobby farm is an excellent opportunity for those living in rural areas, as well as city dwellers, to begin moving closer to nature. Regardless of the reason for starting a hobby farm, the focus of these farms is not on the production of income. Rather, farm owners focus on their own enjoyment of growing their own food and raising their own animals.
Choosing which hobby farm livestock to raise will depend on the needs of the owner. Determining what are good hobby farm animals will help create a hobby that is both rewarding and enjoyable.
Choosing animals for hobby farms will depend on many factors. Among these considerations are location, size, needs, prior experience, and time that can be dedicated to care. In selecting animals to have on a hobby farm, many suggest starting small. Doing so will allow for the gradual introduction of animals and the responsibilities associated with them. While worthwhile, keeping hobby farm livestock will also require hours of hard work and manual labor.
Before the purchase of any hobby farm livestock, one should research their selection carefully. This will allow farmers to fully familiarize themselves with the needs of the animals, as well as expectations related to their care.
All animals should be purchased from local, reputable sources. This will allow for sound advice and guidance regarding the animals and ensure that they are healthy and free of disease.
Other smaller animals for beginners might include raising turkeys, pigs, or ducks.
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Your dream to live self-sufficiently, closer to the land and more economically is within reach.
The rewarding and healthful lifestyle of small-scale farming can be yours on as little as one acre of land, rewarding you and your family with sustenance, satisfaction, and valuable life lessons.
The key to success is not size.
With some basic understanding, planning, organization and efficient operation, your 1-acre farm will flourish.
A hobby farm is basically someone who practices self-sustainability by raising a farm. They do it for fun or to make a little extra money on the side.
However, they don’t farm to earn a full-time income.
So if you are someone who raises a flock of chickens in your backyard, a couple of goats, some fresh veggies, or anything else along those lines, then you are considered a hobby farmer.
Basically, the difference between a hobby farm, homestead, and a farm is this:
A hobby farm and homestead can be one and the same. It is all about your purpose behind your farming efforts.
Then a farm and a homestead could also be one and the same because if you farm for a full-time living, then you are no longer doing it just as a hobby or for supplemental income.
So now you know exactly what a hobby farm is. The next time you hear the term, you can be ‘in the know.’
I am a hobby farmer, technically. We raise our own meats, fruits, and vegetables to feed our family and make a little extra money.
However, we don’t make a full-time income from it. My husband still has a town job, and I work from home as a writer. That is our meat and potatoes.
But our farm allows us to not spend our money on food and instead use it in other areas of our lives. It is kind of nice to be able to save your paycheck for other things instead of spending it all or in part at the grocery store.
I love farming. I had never really considered myself a ‘hobby farmer’ because when I’m out on my tractor, I really do feel like the big farmers that make their living that way.
But in reality, it is a hobby. I could quit tomorrow, and I’d have to make a new budget, but I’d still have a job and so would my husband.
However, I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon because it is my therapy. When my feet hit the floor in the morning, I go to the window and check on my goats out on the pasture. (I can see them from my bedroom window.)
When I take the dogs out first thing in the morning, I listen for my chickens and ducks. I love planting and watering my garden.
I love harvesting and canning. It brings me an unexplainable joy. No matter what kind of day I’ve had elsewhere, I can go for a walk outside among my plants and livestock, and I suddenly feel like I can breathe again.
So if you are considering raising your own food, make sure your heart is in it because if it is, you may have just found your latest stress reliever.
To me, hobby farming is practical. I personally think if you are physically able to do it, you should. If the whole world grew just a portion of their own food, could you imagine just how much healthier we would all be?
Plus, now that I know how simple it is to grow my own vegetables, I feel silly when I go into a grocery store and pay such high prices for food that I know won’t taste as good as what I’ve grown.
So even if you just start a small hobby farm, you will still feel some of the benefits when you eat that first homegrown tomato (there is no comparison in my mind), or you eat that first farm fresh egg.
Obviously, the more you raise of your own the less you have to buy. This is called becoming more self-sufficient.
And if the economy crashes again, you’ll wish that you were more self-sustained. My husband and I learned this the hard way in our earliest years of marriage.
We got married right around the time the housing market crisis happened. Neither of us lost our jobs (thankfully), but we lived in a subdivision at the time and every day it seemed a new home was being foreclosed on.
Though this was before our leap into self-sustainability, I think it was the baby steps that got us to where we are today. Because even then, we began making our own dog food, our own laundry detergent, and eventually our own baby food when our son was born.
It definitely made us more aware of how bad things could get and just how quickly they could get that way.
So being self-sustained, is never a bad thing. It just means that while things are better in the economy, you are spending less money.
Then if things get bad again, you won’t have to fret as much about basic necessities because you’ve got those covered.
Though hobby farming sounds like all rainbows and sunshine, honestly, there are some drawbacks to this way of life too.
There is added expense to running your own hobby farm and unfortunately, not a lot of tax breaks. You’ll have to check with your local government to see what is available in your area.
But in our neck of the woods, we have to have a farm tax id. We basically get a free pass for the first 3 years where we don’t have to meet any certain quotas.
Then you use that farm tax id to bypass taxes on any items you purchase that are farm related. This is a big help when you go to purchase any type of store bought feed.
But after three years, you then have to begin to meet quotas in order to keep your farm tax id. In our area, we have to agree that we can make $10,000 in 5 years. If we do, then we get to keep our number. If not, then we lose it.
So this can be a little stressful because if you are mainly raising food for yourself and family, you may not make a couple thousand dollars a year in selling goods.
Again, the rules may vary in your area. So be sure to check with your local government agency to find out what type of tax breaks may be available to you, or any other breaks you may be able to take part in.
Hobby farming is a ton of work. You are raising your own food. This doesn’t just magically happen. You do this by the sweat of your brow.
So you will sweat over your garden. You will sweat on a hot summer day harvesting your fruits and vegetables. You will sweat when caring for your animal.
Or worse, during the winter, you don’t get the season off if you have animals.
So when their water is frozen, you’ll have to trek out in the snow and ice to thaw it because your livestock have got to have water to survive regardless of temperatures.
As I said before, when you think about hobby farming be sure your heart is in it because as fulfilling as it is, it is work. Which means it requires a lot of effort.
Finally, hobby farming is a lot of responsibility. My friends came over the other night to see our new home and farm. I laughed when my friend was walking the pasture with me, and she said, “You know, I think I could get into this peaceful, simple way of life.”
I just smiled and said, “Yes, it is peaceful and definitely simple in some ways, but this is hard work. No way around that.”
She just looked at me and said, “Yeah, maybe I’ll just come over here and pick what you’ve got going.” I couldn’t help but laugh because that is a very true statement. Many friends I have know what a responsibility it is to do what we do.
For instance, when we go on vacation I can’t just head out the door on a whim. I have to find someone that can come by and check on my animals, make sure they still have food and water, water our garden, collect eggs and pick vegetables if needed.
So hobby farming creates a lot of added responsibility that a lot of people don’t care to have added to their plate.
As with any other hobby, finding your passion is important in hobby farm life. Richardson’s passion is breeding, specifically shepherding dogs and the sheep they herd.
“I’m kind of a genetics buff. It’s a hobby of mine,” Richardson said. “It’s like baking in the dark with a two-year-old.”
Richardson’s passion for genetics started during her childhood on the very same land she returned to as an adult.
“I bred ducks for color when lived in Maine as a child, but they were wiped out by a fox,” she chuckled. “Ten years of work, all gone in one night.”
Even before Richardson started her hobby farm in Maine, she bred Kangal Shepherd dogs, a livestock guardian dog with a fluffy sable coat and black muzzle hailing originally from the Sivas Province of Turkey. She bought her first Kangal back in 2011, when she lived in Arizona.
Sakura, a young Turkish Kangal dog. Hobby farmer Fawn “Tarma” Richardson breeds Kangals on her hobby farm in Greenfield, Maine. | Photo by Sam Schipani
“We have puppies all over the country,” Richardson said. “I run a training group on Facebook [called Farei Kennels] for members who want to work dogs the way we do, in shepherding.”
Though Richardson has been breeding, training and selling Kangals for nearly a decade, she said she has never made a profit from her breeding, just enough money to offset the initial costs.
“If you’re breeding to make money, you’re breeding for the wrong reasons,” Richardson said.
Richardson breeds two different kinds of sheep in order to train her shepherding dogs: Jacob and Navajo-Churro. Not only does she enjoy the unique sheep — though the sheep are small enough to be mistaken for goats, she said they are some of the few breeds where the hides are thick enough to tan — but the heritage breeds are particularly well-suited to her hobby farm life.
Sheep on Fawn “Tarma” Richardson’s hobby farm. Richardson raises and breeds two heritage breeds of sheep: Jacob and Navajo-Churro. | Photo by Sam Schipani
“Heritage animals are hardy,” Richardson said. “The sheep will dig in snow for food. That’s an important part of being sustainable.”
In addition to the Kangals that she is training — year-old Sakura is making promising strides in guiding the herd of sheep out of danger, Richardson said — Richardson is also training a young Australian Cattle dog, Cooper, to help round up her wily herd.
Equipped with her training skills, Richardson has also opened her farm as a sanctuary for the rehabilitation of dogs that are aggressive to humans — yet another passion project on her hobby farm.
Hobby farmer Fawn “Tarma” Richardson interacting with one of the rehabilitated dogs on her property. | Photo by Sam Schipani
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