Hobby farms may be operated for business or pleasure, full-time or part-time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, small-scale local farming operations, particularly horticulture and organic farming, offer the best opportunities for entering the occupation. Hobby farms can provide a money-making outlet for utilizing small acreages in providing fresh produce to local grocers, raising livestock to breed or sell and by providing educational opportunities to the community.
The University of California Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources defines agricultural tourism, or "agritourism," as “the act of visiting a working farm or any agricultural, horticultural or agribusiness operation for the purpose of enjoyment, education or active involvement in the activities of the farm or operation.” Small farms who offer seasonal festivals, educational tours and outdoor adventures to the public may be able to earn an income from opening their operations to the public. Agritourism benefits farmers who don’t want to be open to the public year-round or who simply want to bring in income during a slower part of the season.
Cows, goats, sheep, and chickens top the list of profitable livestock across the United States. Many families who are involved with the 4-H Junior Livestock Program use the experience of raising or breeding animals as a learning experience for their children. This opportunity allows kids to have the chance to learn firsthand about breeding and raising farm animals for profit. The relatively low investment in land for cows, along with other small livestock, makes breeding animals a good choice for hobby farmers.
According to the USDA, fruits and vegetables accounted for 37 percent of U.S. organic food sales in 2008. The organic food industry has been growing at a remarkable rate during the past several years. Sales of organic commodities in natural foods stores approached $3.3 billion in 1998, compared with $2.08 billion in 1995. Some small farm operations create “Pick your own” produce opportunities, which are educational ways for families to get fresh produce and reduce harvest time for the hobby farmer. Others use farmers' markets that cater directly to suburban and urban consumers.
Exotics and Extinction
Working to preserve rare breeds of farm animals is another way to create a unique hobby farm. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, there are more than 180 breeds of livestock and poultry that need to be saved from extinction. Exotic animals and specialty food items can be a lucrative way to earn money on a hobby farm. Breeding or raising llamas, potbelly pigs or cashmere goats to sell to other small farms can set your operation apart from others and help earn additional income. Hobby farmers typically raise alpacas and llamas for their fibers, which are nearly as valuable as wool and cashmere.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Farmers, Ranchers and Agricultural Managers
- Colorado State University; Colorado 4-H -- 4-H Livestock Projects -- Beef
- U.S. Department of Agriculture; Organic Agriculture -- Organic Market Overview
- American Livestock Breeds Conservancy; Parameters of Livestock Breeds on the ALBC Conservation Priority List; 2007
- Hobby Farms.com; Livestock and Pets -- Raising Rare Breeds; Sue Weaver; May/June 2007
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images