Hobby Farming For Dummies
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If you’re thinking about taking up farming as a hobby, educate yourself about the responsibilities. Research hobby farming by using local resources (like the library and neighbors), using the Internet, and volunteering at a farm. When you decide to plant, make sure you know your area’s growing season and to rotate your crops to maintain soil and plant quality. Keep your farm animals healthy by providing basic care and provisions and watching for signs of illness.

Hobby farming: Know your growing seasons

Deciding which crops to plant depends on how well things will grow on your farm. The length of the growing season is vital because you want your plants to produce fruit before the first frost. Determine the best times for growing by checking the back of seed packets or by consulting the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map.

The following table shows the average last and first frost dates, marking the start and end of the growing season for various regions in the United States.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Last Frost (Beginning) First Frost (End) Length of Growing Season (Days)
1 June 15–30 July 15–30 30
2 May 15–30 August 15–30 90
3 and 4 May 15–30 September 15–30 120
5, 6, and 7 April 15–30 October 15–30 180
8 March 15–30 November 15–30 240
9 February 15–30 December 15–30 300
10 January 31 December 15–30 315
11 Frost free Frost free 365

Plant rotation suggestions for hobby farming

Rotating the plants (crops) on your farm enhances plant health and soil quality. To rotate your plantings, divide your garden into several sections and plant each section with a different family of plant. Next year, plant something from the next family. For instance, plant squash in section one the first year; the next year, plant peas there; next year, plant tomatoes; and well, you get the idea.

Plant Family Examples
Gourds Squash, melons, zucchini, pumpkins, cucumbers
Legumes Beans and peas
Nightshades Eggplants, potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes
Carrots Carrot, dill, parsnips, and parsley
Mustards Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard,
radishes, and turnips
Beets Beets, spinach, and chard
Onions Onions, leeks, and garlic

Hobby farming: Basics of farm animal care

What’s a farm without animals? A hobby farmer who wants to raise animals must understand that he or she is responsible for their care. Animals need food, water, exercise and clean shelter everyday. Good hygiene and care can deter health problems. This is the minimum care you should give your farm animals:

  • Provide clean (and unfrozen) water daily.

  • Provide sufficient food (each animal has different diet requirements).

  • Keep the living area clean.

  • Provide proper grooming (each animal has different needs)

  • Provide exercise or the opportunity for the animal to just get out and run.

  • If animals are herd animals (such as alpacas), be sure to have at least two.

  • Interact with your animals regularly not only so they get used to your being in the pen but also so bonds can form.

Hobby farming: Warning signs of illness in farm animals

A hobby farmer, like a commercial farmer, must keep an eye on the health of the farm animals by checking them routinely. Daily observation tells you the animals’ habits, and will help you determine if something is wrong or if your animal is sick.

The following signs are warnings that your farm animal has an illness:

  • The animal is lethargic or just not very active.

  • The animal isn’t eating.

  • The animal is getting thin.

  • The animal’s milk production is off.

  • There’s a change in the animal’s stools (you notice diarrhea or straining and a lack of stools, indicating constipation).

Deciding on farming as a hobby

If you decide to leave the hubbub of the city for farming, remember that farming involves tasks that aren’t part of the responsibilities of city jobs. Here are some ways to lessen the learning curve if you decide to take up hobby farming:

  • Do some research so you can make a more informed decision. Besides all the pencil-to-the-paper research, like on the Internet, you can do some feet-to-the-pavement research — get out on the streets and go to the local businesses, the local library, the local county building, and so on.

  • Do volunteer work. Maybe help on a local farm — milk cows, clean animal stalls, help with the weeding or picking. Not only does this give you some good experience (and let you test the waters), but it also gives you the fun experience of being involved.

  • Hang out on a farm and watch what goes on.

  • Start your operation small and leave room for expansion.

  • Build off skills you already have.

  • Keep detailed records to facilitate trial and error (so you know what worked and what didn’t).

Where to find information on hobby farming

Finding information about farming (hobby or otherwise) isn’t hard — plenty of resources are available. After you’ve exhausted all of the books at your library and scanned the Internet for information about farming, try these other sources of agricultural information:

  • Your local cooperative extension office

  • Your local county office

  • Your state’s official Web site (www.<yourstate>.gov)

  • Your neighbors, friends, or friends of friends who’ve taken the plunge

  • The staff at the local feed store

  • USDA

  • FEMA

  • Your local county library system

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Theresa A. Husarik is a freelance writer and photographer who raises animals and plants small crops on her ten acres of farmland.

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