- Food and Cooking
Getting Started With A Hobby Farm
Animals on a Hobby Farm
Plan Your Garden According To The Amount Of Food You Want To Grow!
You Want To Start A Hobby Farm?
So, you want to start a hobby farm? There is a great deal to consider before jumping in head first and starting a small farm. We couldn't wait to get started and have learned a lot that can be shared so that others can learn from our mistakes. We also can share a lot of positive experiences that others can implement into their hobby farm.
First, find the perfect land that will accommodate what you want to do on a farm. Not everyone wants the same things when dreaming about their farm. Some people want horses and can imagine a ranch type farm that allows them to roam and ride and raise horses. Some want to live a sustainable lifestyle and grow their own food. There are a lot of ways to imagine and plan your dream hobby farm.
Before you ever get an animal, you need to consider fencing. There isn't any animal on a farm that doesn't need to be reminded with fencing that they stay on the farm. There is nothing more miserable than trying to get an animal back on their property when they only want to be on someone else's property, eating their grass or gardens. Fencing is a priority and making sure you have the proper fencing before purchasing any animals is very important.
After the proper fencing is complete, the next priority is to ensure there is proper housing for animals that you want to have on your hobby farm. Are you wanting small animals to start with, such as chickens? Chickens, ducks, guineas and turkeys need proper housing to protect them from the elements of the weather as well as predators. Will you free range your poultry or will they be kept in pens? Will you house them together or have individual housing for each breed of bird? There is a lot to consider when planning your housing for animals. We decided that we wanted to have our animals co-habitate. We have one barn that houses our chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, turkeys and goats. We do not have horses, and don't plan to but we do want to eventually get a milk cow and donkey. We will have to build a bigger barn or at least another barn before we get them.
Remember that Rome wasn't built in a day! Don't get overzealous the first year, that is what we did and it turned out to be hard work, frustration and a great learning experience. We jumped right in and planted a half acre garden. Well, who knew that was going to produce so much food and be more work than I was ready for in the beginning. We went through a couple of chicken flocks, one we lost to predators, so we had to do research on the predators in our area and build better housing. The other flock was given to us and was sick and we had to put them all down. Talk about devastating and yet another learning experience. Now, I only get my birds from respectable farms and the hatcheries. Overall, our first year was one learning curve after another. After a few years now, we are feeling much more confident in our farming abilities, but there is always so much more to learn!
Research Before You Start
As you begin to build your hobby farm you will want to learn how to make the most of what you have and limit the amount of money you spend. We all dream of the big red barns and the nostalgic old farm houses that we see. It takes time, money and years to live that vision. Unless you just happen upon a ready made farm that has all of that already.
Recycle, reuse and re-purpose is my motto. Use scrap wood and metal to build housing and reuse fencing to create pens. Find free items from others that are getting rid of them to re-purpose on your farm. Craigslist is a great resource for free items or less expensive items on their Free and Farm and Garden sections. Don't jump in and spend loads of money when you can take your time to figure out what you need as you go and use items that don't cost anything. You will find as your farm takes shape that some of the things you thought you needed you may never use. Let your farm speak to you, don't try to create a dream farm without planning. My favorite saying is vision is one thing and execution is another!
When choosing animals for your farm, remember you want animals that earn their keep. Feed is expensive so you want to get your money back in some way. If you are going to raise meat for food then you will be feeding your animals in order to stock your freezer. Chickens and ducks are great food machines. They require little food if they free range and you get eggs and meat from them. Pigs aren't that expensive to raise because they will eat anything and they are great workers in the gardens and fields. You can easily create pens that can be moved from one area to another and always make sure they have warm, covered shelter. Cows and goats are great for milk and meat and goats are your brush eaters that clear your patches of brush and woods. Cows graze and keep your pastures from being mowed often. Don't jump into designer animals like Emus and Alpacas unless you just want pets that cost you a lot of money. Beekeeping is a great but expensive to get started but worth it in the long run for many reasons. You get honey to sell, eat or use to barter and the bees are perfect pollinators for your plants.
It is important to learn your land. Find out about your soil and what grows well in your area. Talk to other farmers in your area, join the local gardening club and make good use of your county extensions that can help with soil evaluation and testing. Make the most of your land and take the time in the beginning to do your research. The best tip I can offer is read, read, and read some more. There are amazing books and blogs and articles on the internet that will give you valuable information on farming. One of my favorite magazines and websites is Mother Earth News, it is chock full of information for the beginning to the advanced farmer. Take advantage of what others have already learned and you will be a step ahead before you even start.