How to Start a Sustainable Hobby Farm

05/19/2021

Did you ever dream about being a farmer when you were a kid? Or maybe you'd love to grow more sustainable food for your family or have another stream of income?

These are all good reasons to explore starting a hobby farm. Curious about what is a hobby farm? Keep reading. We'll share the basics of hobby farms and how to get started.

What Is a Hobby Farm?

Hobby farming is a term that can encapsulate many different types of farms. In essence, it refers to a farm somewhere between a conventional farm fully operating as a business and a homestead that's completely sustainable.

For many, a hobby farm is a bit of both. Most are around 10 acres or less; it's small enough to provide a more manageable way to learn how to grow your own sustainable food, and large enough to potentially generate income. Hobby farmers also focus on providing a healthy ecosystem, growing crops and animals without chemicals or pesticides.

There's no typical hobby farmer, either. Some are retirees living out that childhood dream of owning a small farm. Others are younger professionals with families and devote their weekends to farming. There are also many in-between options that you may fall into.

What Kinds of Hobby Farms Are There?

The type of farm you'll want to start depends on a couple of key factors, including the land you have available and the climate you live in.

Before you make any other decisions, you'll want to focus on those first and then determine what kind of farms are the best fit.

Here are some examples for aspiring hobby farmers in the Midwest:

  • Chickens: Egg farming is a popular way to get into hobby farms. You don't need much space, and chicken waste can help fertilize crops.
  • Bees: Bees produce delicious natural honey you can use and sell. As you grow as a beekeeper, you can sell bees to other farmers.
  • Microgreens: If you don't have a ton of land available, microgreens are a great starting option. They also grow quickly and are ready to eat or sell in less than a month.
  • Fruit/Vegetable: Small-scale fruit orchards and vegetable crops are a manageable addition to your farm. Consider diversifying your farm by adding small fruit like blueberries or strawberries.
  • Christmas tree farm: These farms don't take a ton of work, but you'll need time. Usually, it takes between 5-10 years to reap the benefits of a Christmas tree farm.
  • Small livestock: People pay premiums on meat, such as pork, cage-free and fed natural, organic food. You can start with a handful of animals, but there's a higher cost and learning curve.

Tips on Getting Started With Hobby Farming

For many farmers, especially in the Midwest, generations of knowledge get passed down through the family. As a hobby farmer, you might be starting from scratch.

So it's important to start on the right foot—here are some tips:

  • Set a budget: Starting a hobby farm has some upfront costs. Set your budget and stick to it so you don't run out of funds.
  • Do your research: Spend time learning online, especially about what types of hobby farms work best for your budget and climate. Chat with other farmers about their experience and advice.
  • Be patient: Farming is a long-term business. Realize that it might take 3-5 years for you to have a good picture of how it's going.
  • Stick with one thing at a time: If you're seeing success with raising chickens, don't just jump into goats. Set up a timeline for new additions.
  • Keep a journal: Use it to note the weather, what you're growing and your costs so you can compare them to buying your food.

Starting a hobby farm can be a fulfilling way to spend more time outdoors, grow sustainable and healthy food, and potentially add another income stream. While it's no wonder hobby farms are increasing in popularity, it's vital that you protect the investment you've made, just as you would your home and car. Don't leave that up to chance.

Learn how Westfield can help protect your hobby farm with agriculture insurance. Regardless of how big or small your farm might be, an independent Westfield agent can help you find the best coverage for your needs.