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Any hobby farmers out there?
Old 06-10-2013, 06:56 PM   #1
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Any hobby farmers out there?

Been FIRE'd a year now and loving it. Find myself looking for my next new adventure or hobby though. I can't seem to shake this deep seeded desire to operate a small hobby farm. I am envisioning a 30 to 50 acre place where I could do a great garden, a greenhouse, an orchard and some "livestock". Maybe chickens, goats, sheep or even bees. I would love to have these sort of healthy and organic options for DW and myself. Of course it would also need to have a good hunting area and a stocked pond.

I have no illusion that one can make significant money at this sort of thing. Breaking even each year would be a worthy enough goal. This calculation obviously wouldn't include the land purchase. That would just be a real estate investment which may actually be a good diversification factor for me.

Anyway, thanks for reading my pipe-dream. Guess I am just a self-sufficieent, get your hands dirty, farmer type at heart. Please let me know if you have had any good or bad experiences along these lines.
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Old 06-10-2013, 07:07 PM   #2
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Not a hobby farmer at all here, sorry. Enjoy :-)
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Old 06-10-2013, 07:52 PM   #3
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I like your idea. We actually get the Hobby Farmer magazine. We have some acreage in WI and the original goal was to do that up there.

Since then DW convinced me to buy a place in FL and do the snow birding thing.

Result is we will be able to play with growing things in Wi. I really wanted to do some animals. Chickens and such. With the going back and forth, this will not work.

Good luck, I like the idea. Would be a great hobby.
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Old 06-10-2013, 08:08 PM   #4
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BIL has a 117 acre spread with horses, cows, chickens, hay barn, greenhouse, etc.

What you're thinking of is a lot of WORK, something that I retired to get away from.

No thank you. Not for me. DW wants chickens and I'm not even keen on that idea.
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Old 06-10-2013, 08:38 PM   #5
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We have what used to be a potato farm but it's just hay fields now. There's a small pond a few hundred feet from the house. Between the bitterns, the herons and the river otters, the only aquatic wildlife that make it are small minnows and the occasional frog. The pond and the plants growing in it does attract moose though. Sometimes in the evening we sit on the porch and wait for one to come by. They're a hoot.
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Old 06-10-2013, 08:56 PM   #6
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We only have a few acres, but we try to grow or harvest a fair amount of the food we consume each year, either from our land or from nearby. I have a large vegetable garden, which I love, and I've even expanded it since I retired. Most of our meat comes from either nearby farmer friends of ours (who raise grass-fed beef and lamb), or from the deer that we harvest every fall (on public land next to our property). We also get fresh farm eggs from another farmer friend just down the road. We do a lot of fishing in the summer months, and enjoy eating fresh fish on a regular basis. There are wild blackberries and blueberries growing nearby, which we pick for eating fresh and freezing for the winter. We harvest wild rice from a nearby river, which makes for great eating all year long. We also make wine from local wild fruits (chokecherries, crabapples, grapes, etc).

So, even if you only own a small amount of land, it's possible to live the kind of life you describe, or at least come pretty close.
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Old 06-10-2013, 09:23 PM   #7
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You will need a tractor and other equipment. Lots of advice and tips about tractors and rural living at this site.

TractorByNet.com | Compact Tractors | John Deere, Kubota, New Holland
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Old 06-10-2013, 09:41 PM   #8
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My wife and I had bees [6 hives] in the mid 80's. Lots of fun even in the city, but if you have crops or plants that require pollination, the proximity of hives can noticeably improve yields. Plan on subsidizing honey sales with your time, it is very labor intensive and messy to extract and put in jars. If I did it now, I would likely just give it away.

Even if you don't want to mess with them personally, you may be able to find a beekeeper to locate a few hives on your place so they benefit from local forage. You could just watch and not have to work them.

When you begin learning social insect behavior, it is like learning chess or something; you can't force or train them, you work with their rule set.

Honeybees need all the help they can get, so raise some bees!
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Old 06-10-2013, 10:02 PM   #9
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My dad is a hobby farmer. He has a large garden with vegetables, herbs, and berries as well as an orchard where he grows an assortment of fruits and nuts (cherries, peaches, pears, apples, plums, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc...). He just built a small greenhouse to get seedlings started in the spring. He collects rain water for irrigation. And he has a small tractor. Since he still likes to travel quite a bit, he has not branched out into livestock yet though he's recently talked about getting some chicken. His wife takes care of canning, making jams, and freezing the harvest. He has a large root cellar for storing veggies throughout the winter. They make their own sauerkraut and cider. All of that on about 3 acres.
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Old 06-10-2013, 10:11 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by ICNTR View Post
Been FIRE'd a year now and loving it. Find myself looking for my next new adventure or hobby though. I can't seem to shake this deep seeded desire to operate a small hobby farm. I am envisioning a 30 to 50 acre place where I could do a great garden, a greenhouse, an orchard and some "livestock". Maybe chickens, goats, sheep or even bees. I would love to have these sort of healthy and organic options for DW and myself. Of course it would also need to have a good hunting area and a stocked pond.

I have no illusion that one can make significant money at this sort of thing. Breaking even each year would be a worthy enough goal. This calculation obviously wouldn't include the land purchase. That would just be a real estate investment which may actually be a good diversification factor for me.

Anyway, thanks for reading my pipe-dream. Guess I am just a self-sufficieent, get your hands dirty, farmer type at heart. Please let me know if you have had any good or bad experiences along these lines.
Depending on the kind of land one has, fewer acres might be sufficient. One of the local farmers here in SW Oregon has a very successful farm and sells at several of the local farmers markets all on three acres of intensively cultivated land.

Here in SW Oregon we have horses, goats, chickens, a nice 1/4 acre garden fruit trees and had geese and ducks all on 7 acres of which 4 are for us and critters and 3 are for woodlot ( I cord per acre is a sustainable harvest and enough to heat our place for the winter). Of course, dry dessert land a whole different story. It's most certainly not a pipe dream lots of people in this part of the world do it.
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Old 06-10-2013, 10:53 PM   #11
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Wow. Thanks for the responses. It sounds like some of you are "living the dream". Maybe I should look at smaller acreages. That certainly would decrease risk.

I know it would be a lot of work but like they say, "it ain't work if you love doing it.". Starting smaller makes sense though just to make sure I do love it for the long-term.

As a retired engineer and former "country boy", the idea of designing my own well, irrigation, greenhouse, alternative energy systems, etc seems like it could entertain me for years. At 43, hopefully I could still put up with the manual labor for a while and even get some good exercise just working the farm.

I am not "passionate" about too many hobbies but this idea does seem to excite me. I'll just have to keep an eye out for the right property......and then do regular sanity checks.
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Old 06-11-2013, 02:45 AM   #12
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My hobby farm - 157 acres in Eastern Oregon, 110 irrigated.

Too small to be considered commercial.

It is rented out at present - alfalfa, wheat, beans plus 50 pairs of beef cattle. Rental yield is at best 2 or 3 percent of the land value annually.

Expenses are high, a considerable amount of equipment, vehicles, tools, maintenance in addition to tax/water. Frankly, the place isn't anywhere close to break even.

I spend about 60 days per year on the farm. Love every minute as it is such a change from my professional life. Always busy, learning a whole different skill set as farmers need to be electricians, mechanics, welders, hydraulic specialists, heavy equipment operators. A very physically active life style is a plus. Recreational opportunities galore - motorcycles, boating, fishing, hunting, camping. And the sunsets are fantastic.

One option when I retire from MegaCorp will be to expand acreage to something commercial and farm full time as it is very common for farmers to keep going into their 80's.

My advice is to do it for the lifestyle but make your money somewhere else.
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:16 AM   #13
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Our family had a 7 acre country place that my Dad used to plant some vegetables. Probably only used 1 acre for planting. Of course I was just a kid, but that seemed like more than enough work to me.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:26 AM   #14
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Don't know where you're located but I'll bet there are affordable parcels if you're willing to travel or relocate. There are USDA conservation programs available that contribute to maintaining your farmland or you may get offers from local farmers to rent acreage for crops or grazing...typically $50-$60 per acre per year around here. Taxes are comparitively low. 70 acres here w/small house and garage = just over $1k per year.
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:36 AM   #15
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Grew up that way and it was wonderful. At some point I got the travel bug with DW and the two do not mix. A farm requires you to be there all the time to care for the animals which you may really like.

I do miss it and still have the 50 acres just rented out now. I go there some to play and that satisfies me and allows us to travel as we prefer.
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:45 AM   #16
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As an engineer, you will probably be interested in the approach taken by Joel Salatin at PolyFace Farms. There are numerous youtube interviews with him and also video tours of his farm. In essence he uses electric fencing to constrain & move his cows which 'mow' grass which has been allowed to grow to early adult stage. Next pass over the newly 'mowed' pasture is done by mature laying hens in a portable hen house. Once they finish their manure scattering / egg laying tasks the final pass is done by an array of portable chicken coups (containing mixed meat birds) where chickens grow from infancy to market size. This sequential process continues in a circular manner throughout the grass growing season.

He has a very interesting method for wintering his livestock, and uses pigs as labor to clean up that process. All and all, a very efficient system and a viable alternative to factory farming.
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:50 AM   #17
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I am nearing retirement and my wife and I are starting the search for acreage and the final house as well as pole building, etc. We are looking for a minimum of about 40 acres. a few of my friends have done the same thing. I don't really call it a hobby farm...it's just a way of life where you do your own thing and don't have to put up with annoying neighbors. Yes, I have a tractor and have been a member of Tractor by Net for a number of years...
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Old 06-11-2013, 09:06 AM   #18
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We have about 13 acres (9 wooded, 4 open). Currently grow apples, apricots, sweet cherries (a noble experiment probably doomed to failure, but what-the-heck), peaches, pears, pecans, persimmons, plums, pomegranates, navel and satsuma oranges, meyers lemons, kumquats, mulberries, blueberries, blackberries, muscadine grapes, a small vegetable garden, and have chickens. Sounds like a lot when I write it down...... but all in small numbers, mainly for personal consumpton and for sharing with friends.

Even tho I am still w*rking, and can only play on weekends, I enjoy it immensley, and wouldn't change it for the world
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Old 06-11-2013, 02:01 PM   #19
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Oh, I was starting to get excited about my 40 square feet of planter box that I'm going to do a few veggies in. I think you guys are on a different level.

It does sound like a lot of work. And that it would be hard to take a break if you vacation, but if you plan right, start small, and make nearby friends that can watch your animals when you're gone, it sounds like a nice life.
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Old 06-11-2013, 02:09 PM   #20
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Consider a tree farm. A close friend does this in Wisconsin. Profits are tiny and infrequent. Tax savings are significant and annual. There's an organization of in-the-know folks who contribute to fund lobbiests (to keep the tax code favorable) and publish a newsletter with articles on tax strategies.

Personal physical effort is nil the way my friend does it.
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