Many people approaching retirement have begun planning to move away from the high speed life and return to a more basic philosophy on living. These people are delighted to find that owning a farm doesn't necessarily have to entail industrial-grade investment of time and money. With a healthy attitude and the right information, entering the world of the hobby farm can be a rewarding experience.
Owning or managing a hobby farms can be a very exhaustive and time consuming endeavor, particularly if you're trying to make a profit. Factors such as weather and soil can impact yields from both crops and livestock. Major farm investors have to look at their gains in a 10-20 year investment window, managing major losses one year and big gains the next. If you're purchasing a hobby farm and require it to be profitable, be sure to carefully evaluate your land's strengths and weaknesses. As with normal investments, diversity is the key to managing loss - buy into a farm that has a mixture of crop and livestock potential.
For those who are retiring from the rat race and don't need to depend on the income of a hobby farm, the strains are a little less. Half of the fun of working a hobby farm is discovering just how much you're capable of doing on your own. The easiest way to buy into the hobby farm life is to simply purchase an already functioning hobby farm. Remember to check with an accountant to see if you can claim any loss on your income taxes.
It is important to consider your own priorities before jumping headfirst into hobby farming. If you're still working, will the commute from your farm be tolerable? Do you still have dependent children? Uprooting children will often create a series of issues that can be difficult to address while simultaneously trying to operate a farm.
Farms very often include a home. If this home is to become your primary residence, be sure that every aspect of it is as desirable as the farmland itself. Many farmhouses are very old and require a great deal of work before they are up to the standards of a more urban area. Remember, in the event that you do not like the home, you'll have the burden of offloading the home and the land, which can take a very long time in rural areas.
Running a hobby farm is dependent upon a consistent source of water. When shopping around for hobby farms, inquire about any wells and their production. Though it is not much of an issue in Wisconsin or Minnesota, some artesian wells can produce as little as 5 gallons a day. It is estimated that the average family uses as much as 300 gallons just on day-to-day tasks. This does not include irrigation and livestock maintenance. Be sure to do a walkthrough and figure in any potential well-digging and well-maintenance costs into your final estimate.
How much land do you need for a hobby farm? People have a tendency to think they need large quantities of lands to achieve a balanced production. It is important to remember that every acre requires more maintenance and more work. Even 20 acres can often be more than the average hobby farmer can use. Large parcels require larger tractors and investments in other pieces of equipment. Maintaining trails throughout the land can be a difficult process during the extremes of the Midwest. If you have purchased more land than you can use, consider recouping your investment by leasing the land to neighboring farmers.
Livestock add a delightful, but tenuous element to your hobby farm. Angora goats, for example, are beautiful to see and yield very profitable mohair, but goats are among the most difficult animals to keep fenced. Expect to invest a lot of time, a lot of money or both into running wire and digging post holes.
Livestock also require proper feeding. While most ruminants can graze on open field during the summer, the winter months will require a supplemental food source. While hay can often be purchased from other farmers, one may also consider investing in hay bailers. Sometimes you can work closely with a neighboring farm to share equipment and save costs.
The possibilities for a hobby farm don't end with the obvious. Research a variety of options and discuss them with an agent to determine what is best for the money you're willing to pay. Land that may not be good for cows and corn may be perfect for alpacas and sunflowers.
Hobby farms have a lot of potential, as long as you work with the land you're given. If you have a certain goal, make this goal clear to your agent before purchasing, so that you can avoid the potential pitfalls of running a farm. Talk to the county about any agricultural restrictions or covenants on the land. Many areas offer tax breaks for maintaining farmland (as opposed to development), so be sure to ask around. Do a walkthrough of the land and get a good idea for what soil is there. After collecting this data, you'll be able to get a confident start on running a successful farm.
Hobby farms may seem like a lot of work, but the spoils will come from day to day life. Managing a small farm means you pay fewer taxes than on a recreational plot, while enjoying a deep, meaningful connection to the land. From a sip of cool, clean water to a high yield in fall, the Midwestern hobby farm will reward you all year round.