Hobby Farming as a Job

Spiro, OK(Zone 7a)

I've got a unique opportunity (well, unique for me!) to work a farm that has nothing - no animals, a small garden and not much more. I realize that the economic realm of the small-time farmer isn't booming right now, but I'm wondering if it's possible to earn a reasonable income (i.e. enough to pay a mortgage and bills) from farming on a small scale. I'd like to participate in a farmers' market this coming year, and plan to raise chickens (for meat and eggs) - we have a coop all ready to go. I'm curious what any of you have found works as far as things you can do on a farm to earn money. We've talked about chopping firewood, growing unique, heirloom and standard vegetables for selling at market, selling milk and milk products to local consumers (i.e. by word of mouth since I'm thinking there'd be some regulations for selling to a business), and perhaps raising livestock for meat and/or fiber. I'm not thinking I can get this all done in a year, nor am I thinking it's not going to be hard work. Hard work I'm good for! I plan to start small and increase over time. Eventually though, I'd like my husband to be able to work with me, rather than working outside the home. I guess what I'm hoping for is some direction about whether this is a pie in the sky dream, or if others have had success doing this. If you've been successful, can you share some pointers? Thanks everyone!

Eileen (who probably sounds naive as heck to all of you veteran farmers out there!)

Ozone, AR(Zone 6a)

Eileen, I've got the land and have been thinking about having someone come up to do gardening with me as i am unable to do this anymore. It can be done. We've done it tho we had retirement and SSI to live on also.
Not only do you have to be a knowledgeable gardener but also a marketer. There are markets out there and there will be more as people become more unhappy with big business foods.I think there is a market forum here that might tell you more.
Good luck

Panama, NY(Zone 5a)

Eileen, there are actually a lot of opportunities right now for small, market growers and I think with a little research into the markets in your area, you could probably do quite well. there is a Market Growers forum with a lot of very knowledgeable people who could help you with that.

As far as selling milk goes, you really need to do your research there. There are differences state by state, but as a general rule, it is illegal to sell raw milk to anyone. You must be a certified raw milk dairy (and here, at least, the size of the dairy makes no difference), and there are very stringent rules about how and to whom you can sell. It can be a real can of worms.

Be prepared to give up vacations, especially if you get into animals that need to be milked.

edited to add: get in touch with your county Cooperative Extension - they can give you tons of information about what to grow, farmer's markets, animals, regulations, etc.

This message was edited Jan 4, 2010 8:23 AM

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