-Submitted by Chris Barry, writer, Looselips.ca
Starting a hobby farm can be a great way to connect with nature and make a small amount of money on the side by selling your produce.
Before you can get your hobby farm up and running, here are six basic steps you should take so you can get off to the best possible start.
Step 1: Define the Scope of Your Farm
In order to avoid biting off more than you can chew with your hobby farm, it’s a good idea to start by deciding on the scope of the agricultural project. This means deciding how many acres you want to farm, how many and which crops you want to raise and what agricultural techniques you plan to use. This phase will involve a great deal of research, but good planning now will keep you from getting in over your head later.
Step 2: Test Your Idea on a Micro Scale
Before jumping into hobby farming, it’s a good idea to test out your plans by first implementing them in a large garden. Try planting and harvesting the crops you intend to grow on your farm in your backyard to gain an understanding of how well they grow in your area and gain some real hands-on experience.
If you have certain goals of how much you would like to see your hobby farm produce, track the yields you get from your garden to see if they can be scaled to meet your goals on a larger piece of land.
Step 3: Find the Land for Your Farm
Once you’ve tested your agricultural skills in your garden, it’s time to scale up and get your farm going. To find the right piece of land, be sure to keep size and location in mind. You shouldn’t pay for more acreage than you can possibly work without devoting yourself to farming full-time.
You also need to be sure that your farm is close enough to home that a daily commute will be a reasonable commitment. Even as a hobby, farming is a labor-intensive task that requires daily labor, which is why buying land that’s too far away to visit every day is a major mistake. Don’t forget that you might also be able to lease a piece of land to avoid the upfront costs of buying your acreage.
Step 4: Line up Your Financing
Buying or leasing farm equipment, purchasing seeds, fertilizer and the other basic necessities of a farm can be an expensive proposition. If you don’t want to pay for it all at once, it’s a good idea to line up financing so you can spread the payments out over time.
A good financing arrangement can also help set you up for success, as it allows you to buy higher-quality equipment and materials than you could reasonably afford out of your own pocket.
Step 5: Get Your Farm Established
This is where the research and testing you did before starting your hobby farm will pay off. Once you have your land, you can start buying seed, working the soil and planting your crops.
If you plan to raise animals, you’ll need to build pens, lay in a store of suitable food and buy your initial batch of livestock. Once your crops are in and your animals are on the farm, you can start in on the work of maintaining your farm.
Don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your initial plan as you move along. Farming typically involves a sharp learning curve, so you should begin to see which elements of your plan are working and which aren’t fairly quickly.
Step 6: Decide What to Do With Your Harvest
Because of the hard work involved in establishing and maintaining a farm, it’s easy to arrive at harvest time without a clear idea of where your produce is going to go. Even if it’s mostly for personal consumption, there’s no reason why your hobby farm shouldn’t also bring in some revenue.
Try to develop a plan for selling your produce well in advance, as your first harvest will arrive before you know it. Whether it’s taking your wares to a farmer’s market or starting a community-supported agriculture (CSA)
subscription arrangement, be sure to have a concrete plan in place for marketing whatever your farm produces. Of course, one of the advantages of hobby farming is the access it gives you to fresh produce, so don’t forget to set aside plenty for your own use as well.
These are the six basic steps you need to consider when in the process of establishing a hobby farm. At every stage, make sure you fully understand what you are doing. Never be afraid to do extra research, as it will continue to help you once you’re actively engaged in farming.