How to Set Up a Small Farm

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Small Rural Farms image by Stephen Gibson from

Many people dream of moving to the country to live on a farm. They want the calm, quiet life their grandparents talked about. They are tired of the stress and pressure most of us are constantly under. If you are one of these people, get started now. Setting up a small farm isn’t complicated. It does require some hard, physical work, but it pays off in the end. After a while, it becomes relaxing to work in the garden, tend the chickens and can the produce. You don’t have to have a big piece of land unless you are raising livestock. Many small farmers have 1 acre or less.

Buy a piece of land or use the land you live on. You can grow a large garden if you have at least a 1/2 acre of land. Most houses are on lots that have at least a 1/2 acre of land.

See if you need a business license. If you are going to sell your produce, you may need to get a business license and a tax number. Check with your local tax office to find out.

Buy your garden tools and equipment. Your tools and equipment will be determined by the size of your land. If you are working on a farm that is less than an acre, you won’t need a big tractor. Farms that are less than 1 acre will need the basics: a tiller, flat point shovel, spade, hoe, rakes, buckets and a pitch fork. The tiller isn’t a necessity, but you will be thankful you have it when you start turning the soil for your garden. Turning soil by hand with a shovel is hard work. If you are going larger than 1 acre, you may want to invest in a small tractor or riding lawn mower that has attachments for farming.

Place plants in your garden that you can eat instead of planting flowers. Replace decorative plants with herbs, potatoes, squash, eggplants and other vegetables. Most of these plants have beautiful flowers and produce edible produce.

Put fruit and nut trees in your yard instead of decorative trees. They look beautiful, and you can make jellies, preserves and other goodies using the fruits and nuts.

Make a garden in the backyard. Plant every type of vegetable you eat and test a few you thought you didn’t like. Fresh vegetables taste different than the ones you buy in the store. They are usually more tender, sweeter and tastier. You will be surprised how different a radish or carrot tastes than the dried out old vegetables you buy in a store. If you are planting on a larger scale, make multiple garden beds.

Build or buy a small greenhouse if you have the space. You can start your vegetables in January and be way ahead of everyone else when the growing season starts. During the winter months, you will have fresh root vegetables, lettuce, tomatoes and cabbage.

Check with your local zoning office to see if you are allowed to have chickens or farm animals at your residence. People are allowed to have 4 to 6 chickens (hens only) in most cities. Check with the zoning official to see how many, what sex and how you need to cage any farm animals you get. It isn’t necessary to have animals on a farm, but you should try to get a few chickens. The eggs are so much better than the ones from the store. Store-bought eggs can be 2 or 3 months old when you get them. If you get pygmy goats, you can breed them. Sell off the babies for $50 to $100 each, and you can milk the mother for at least a year. You get about 1 gallon of milk per day from a pygmy goat, so you can make your own cheese, butter, sour cream and cottage cheese. Separate the male when you don’t want the female pregnant. All you need is about a 20-foot-by-20-foot pen with a small shed for them to stay in during bad weather. Run a piece of fence down the center to keep the male separated. Place a few feed and water buckets out, and you are ready to go. Another plus to having livestock is you can add their manure to your compost heap. It decomposes and makes fantastic free fertilizer for your garden.


  • If you want to sell your vegetables and produce, check with your local extension service to see what permits or inspections are necessary.