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5 Year Plan for Hobby Farm Expand / Collapse
Posted 10/18/2012 5:21:24 AM
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Howdy all!

(Second time posting this - first time didn't work).

I'm a native, younger-ish Floridian down on the Gulf Coast looking to expand my horizons to hobby farming. The reason for this is because my wife and I both come from farming lineages that have gone by the wayside. My family owns some decent land near the state line and it isn't being used for much other than field land. It's been indicated to me that the family would love to have something done with it, but no one, as yet, wants to offer up a suggestion.

I want to create a small hobby farm for my wife and I to learn the tradition and the trade to help sustain our family and bring us closer together. A few things going in -

I'll have access to between 20 and 60 acres, unfenced; partial pasture, partial timber. I have a lot of equipment at my disposal (tractors, trailers, land improvement material, etc) and don't mind the manual labor of land improvement.

Ultimately, my goal for our little micro farm will be to have a few head of cattle, but I want to start with something small and manageable that I can learn on. But, here's where things get a little squirrelly. I live about an hour away from where the farm will be. This means I'll have weekends and 1 or 2 days per week to go up and manage the place. So, I need something that'll be low maintenance - researching goats or sheep right now.

What I'm hoping to get is a good evaulation of the things someone like me, with no experience, should look for. As I said, this is not something I'm going to start tomorrow - I plan on starting out over the next year with a slow process. I think that taking the time and making a plan will pay dividends, so to speak. All suggestions are welcome, and I appreciate all the resources.


`~Get on your hustle or just get on.

Post #29687
Posted 11/29/2012 8:11:15 AM

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Hi Ringo,

You might want to check out the article "The Great Divide," which appeared in the Sept/Oct 2011 issue of Hobby Farms. This article profiles people in similar situations, who have time constraints on when they can farm, and what they can reasonably expect to get out of their farming experience.

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Post #29848
Posted 12/3/2012 6:29:58 PM

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I am certainly willing to share what we've learned if it helps.  I was raised on a farm in Alabama and left as a teenager.  I married an airforce guy from the city and agreed to go wherever Uncle Sam sent us, as long as we could retire on a small hobby farm back in Alabama.  We ended up in at Patrick AFB in central Florida and bought the property here in Alabama about 5 years before he retired, so we had a long distance situation for quite a while.  We've been here a year and half now and are making great strides towards our dream.

Our best advice is to start the preparation and research now.  In our situation, we knew we wanted to have several fruit trees and berries so we started by creating a composting operation.  As we cleared the brush away, we used a large chipper/shredder to create a nice compost bin.  The following year we used that compost over the cleared area to plant fruit trees, blueberry and blackberry bushes. 

We spent vacations and weekends clearing land, building barns and fencing pastures that could be used for many types of animals for the future. 

We also started experimenting with container gardening so we could learn more about growing things and feel like we were at least making progress towards the end goal. 

I don't think I would advise starting with cattle.  First of all, they are probably among the most expensive and high maintenance of all the common farm animals.  We started with a few $50 goats off Craig's list!  My husband calls them 'starter goats'.  The goal was to keep them (alive and well) for a year so we could decide if that was what we wanted to do - how much work it was and how enjoyable, etc.  I can also tell you that most farmers check each animal at least once or twice a day.  I know we often find goats with their heads stuck in the fence, or horses who have somehow emptied their water troughs.  Our neighbor has cows and he often spends nights chasing them back into broken fences.  Unless you have someone close who can check on them, the health of the animals could be at risk in those situations.

Best of luck in your adventure - and it truly is an adventure...lol

M. and D.

Post #29872
Posted 12/4/2012 6:37:01 AM
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I agree with what has already been said...I am not sure cows are what you would want.

I have sheep, and WITH GOOD FENCES they would be easy to manage. In your world I would go with hair sheep and not wool sheep probably, but my sheep are easy keepers. I might check on them once a month during the summers here in Maine when I know they have plenty of grass and water.

The hard part is predators and until I got coyote-resistant fence, my work was cut out for me and I chased a lot of sheep; now though I see why people say they though raising beef was too much work.

I am not saying that it is easy; putting up fence and all that is trying, and there have been times I have lost large amounts of sheep due to weather and bloat, but in a farm where you are not on-sight a lot, I think sheep would be a good fit. Just don't be sticker shocked by the price of fencing, it is high! Worth it, but high.
Post #29874
Posted 12/5/2012 8:27:59 PM
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I'm a native Floridian as well; moved to NE Tennessee a few years back. I was also a newbie when deciding to become a farmer. OK, a hobby farmer. First things first, take a day and DRIVE around the neighborhood. Are there other farms in the area? Hopefully, you'll find an older couple - they have more patience with "green horns." Stop in and *politely* introduce yourself; tell them (generally) that you're planning to start a little hobby farm. Don't take up too much of their time. They will approach you, later - to see how you're doing; and, most likely, will give you oodles of free advice.

Get a plat map of the land and surrounds from the county land office. Also ask if there are any restrictions on the land or area. You can also order (online) aerial photos of the area. Google can give you an aerial view of the property as well as your neighbors, if any. Might do this before neighbor shopping. (grin) The maps might give you a real clue as to how the land in the area is being utilized and how well maintained.

Learn which way is due East (or West, etc.) and note it on your map(s) This will help you determine where you will have potential shade during the summer, etc.

Note: Learn, for sure, your rights on this land. Who actually owns? Get it in writing. (Sorry, but you asked for advice.)

Then make photo copies of your land - and start designing. Are there any outbuildings? Well / well house? Any shelter at all?

If your home isn't an apartment, I would suggest that you start a small compost bin / pile at home. Learn how it works - and use it regularly. If in an apartment, get a stainless steel compost pail (w/lid and filter) for under your sink... again, use it. When you go to your "farm" - take the pail with you.

Accumulate old gardening magazines from friends or on Freecycle for your area. We're SURE that you already have a subscription to HOBBY FARMS. Heh.

And that doesn't even put a seed into the ground. But laying the foundation (planning) is worth the effort.

We had a blast going from city dweller to farm living - and I wouldn't change a thing. Remember, you learn from MISTAKES. Experiment - keeps things exciting. And KEEP A JOURNAL. A detailed journal. It will truly come in handy - later.

I sincerely wish you the greatest enjoyment. Luck usually occurs when a lot of work has been applied. (wink)

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