Written by Rob Gray
Have you ever desired to have a hobby farm? What is it about a hobby farm that appeals to you? What would you want to get out of your farm? What has prevented you from beginning your farm? What even is a hobby farm? Is having a farm realistic for you?
These questions are all questions that we asked ourselves before we ever got started on a farm. Our answer to the first question was a definite, yes! Personally, I have wanted animals and a farm since I was a child. I was told by my allergist as a young child that we shouldn’t even have a dog, so the thought of a farm seemed ridiculous. The thought of owning my own little farm, however, continued to appeal to me until I finally decided to do some research. My family bought in and we now, after 20 years of hobby farming, we have 10 dairy goats, 28 egg-laying chickens, 2 Pekin Ducks, a dog, 4 apples trees, 2 pear trees, and grow over 20 varieties of fruits and vegetables on our organic farm. We now compost, have a constructed root cellar in our basement, and are planning our new farm additions for 2019 and beyond. I never would have envisioned 20 years ago that this path would lead us to this point. We simply started small and added something each year. You can, too!
In order to determine if hobby farming is for you, let’s first work on a definition! Our definition for a hobby farm is as follows: “A hobby farm is a farm operated as a hobby; typically for pleasure, healthy consumption or cost savings, that does not serve as one’s main source of income.” Please note, this is our definition. It is intentionally vague in an effort to allow us the option to farm and grow at our own pace, and for our own reasons. By this definition, we technically began our hobby farm the first year we lived at our residence when my grandfather helped us transplant raspberry bushes to our home. Those bushes still thrive today! With this definition, we don’t have rules to follow, and can grow our farm at our desired pace. After all, isn’t a hobby farm supposed to be a hobby?
Now that we have a definition, you must ask yourself the following questions: 1) What is it about a hobby farm that appeals to me? 2) What do I want to get out of my farm? My son and I asked ourselves these questions about 10 years ago and determined that we love animals, and therefore, animals would be the centerpiece of our passion for farming. We also decided that we wanted our farm to produce healthy consumables for us. Naturally, we got chickens that spring, and added additional gardening options. A few years later we added ducks. Three years ago, my wife decided it was time for us to get goats so we welcomed Nigerian Dwarf goats to the farm. Now you have heard our story, but what appeals to you? Do you desire healthy, organic vegetables? Fruit trees? Fresh eggs? Milk? Do you want to be a beekeeper and get your own natural honey? Do you want to raise animals for meat or companionship? Pick one goal and get started this year!
We believe that hobby farming can be for anyone. We live in a world where information is at our fingertips. There is online information everywhere. In addition, there are many hobby farms that are incorporating that allow affordable tours so you can learn more about farming and even receive consultative assistance. Even if you only have a 400 square foot yard, that is still enough room to plant some peppers, onions, and tomatoes and can salsa for the winter. Most cities now allow chickens to legally be allowed in city limits (Please do your research before adding any animals to your farm so you don’t get in trouble). My suggestion is to sit down and brainstorm everything you want in your farm, and then build a plan to add one thing per year until you have reached your goal. I will warn you, however, that hobby farming can be addicting, and your farm may soon look like mine. We continue to add things every year to our farm!
2019 is bringing many exciting additions to the Gray Hobby Farm. Our plans include adding 50% more gardening space so we can store more vegetables, and even sell some produce. We also plan to add 3 more apple trees including a Haralson for pies, a Honeycrisp (it is my wife and kids’ favorite apple), and a Wolf River tree which is a rare tree known for very large apples. We plan on adding 8 more chickens to our egg laying flock, while ordering 20 meat chickens for butcher later this summer. Lastly, we are going to master natural beeswax candles, goat soap, goat yogurt, and begin offering goat yoga classes at our farm. We are more excited than ever to continue our passion towards organic hobby farming and believe that we can benefit from healthier food choices. In our opinion, the healthiest food you can eat is food you grow. It also tastes better.
Having a hobby farm brings so many benefits that there is not enough room in this article to discuss them all. In addition to the healthy organic vegetables, fruit, and eggs, we get milk from our goats, and eggs from our ducks. And most importantly, we love our animals at our farm. I often take naps in the barn with my goats, especially in the winter. They love to snuggle when it’s cold. I can feel my stress and anxiety leave when I spend time with our animals (thus, the birth of goat yoga). We even have chickens that refuse to go to bed on their own so my wife and I snuggle them up before bed time. Sometimes it seems annoying, and most farmers laugh at us for giving names to our chickens, or snuggling them, but this is our hobby farm, and it perfect for us. So, I say to you, “don’t wait any longer!” There are resources to help you navigate through your obstacles. The reward is waiting for you at the other end. And it can be whatever you want it to be.
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.