Courtesy Stephanie Staton
Much like when buying a home or car, arming yourself with knowledge before taking the leap into small-scale farming helps smooth the process and prevent the dreaded buyer’s remorse down the road. Hobby farming is no small feat and should be considered carefully.
As my family and I begin the search for our dream farm—the one where my son can grow up, the dogs can dig to their hearts’ content (preferably near but not in my garden), and my husband and I can grow old—this subject is near and dear to me. As I’ve learned from experience, research is key. You not only have to look at your needs and your farm goals, you also need a realistic idea of how it will all work with your lifestyle and expectations. Experience has proven my best ally and worst enemy throughout this process. (There’s nothing so bitter as learning the hard way!)
When we purchased our first home more than five years ago, I assumed new would be the way to go—no need to renovate and no need to worry about hidden problems. Turns out, not all new builds are crafted the same. We’ve slowly uncovered one problem after another associated with ill-quality craftsmanship, as well as design flaws that seem a poor use of funds to remedy. We once thought a garden to feed ourselves was all we could ask for, and now that dream has expanded to include a couple of sheep (for me) and some chickens, cows and maybe a pig (for my husband)—oh, and a lot of horses (for my son). We’ve pushed our current dwelling to its max—both inside and out—and hope to make this next purchase one that will supply all our new and future demands, as well as be fit to hand down to our son.
Whether you’ve grown up around farming and gardening, like I have, or you’re new to it, you need to look beyond the bucolic dreamscapes and decide which parts of farming you truly enjoy and which ones you’d rather do without. Once you’ve got your head wrapped around these concepts, turn to page 64 to learn from a seasoned hobby farmer’s experiences in “Road to Rural Living.” Follow Julie Mancini’s advice to avoid some of the first-timer’s mistakes that she—and others like us—made and wish we’d anticipated before signing on the dotted line.
If you’ve already found your dream farmstead and are looking for a way to jump-start or support an existing farm business, consider reaching out to your local community for help. In “The ABCs of CSAs,” discover how a community-supported-agriculture operation can provide the cash flow necessary to buy the supplies and tools you need to sell produce, meat or value-added products from your farm.
Looking for ideas to fill (or fill out) your farm’s offerings? This issue of Hobby Farms is packed with farm wisdom to flex your green thumb and nurture your husbandry heart.