If you're just getting interested in growing your own food you may be wondering what the difference between a hobby farm and a homestead is? It's not always clear.
All the differences in the world won't change that they're very similar concepts with one major difference, they deliver different outcomes to the people doing them.
Let's take a look at that in more detail.
What Is Homesteading?
But to sum things up in a nutshell – a homesteader (no need to reach for the Homestead Act for a legal definition) is all about self-sufficient living.
They use their personal land to produce food for themselves and for their families. A homesteader might have a family farm or get involved in agricultural production but there are a few key differences between them and hobby farmers and the main one is this: a homesteader isn't playing, this isn't a hobby whether or not their farm generates money, they are in the game for their own benefit to be self-reliant rather than just to have fun.
What Is Hobby Farming?
A hobby farmer, on the other hand, isn't in the business of farming, they're quite literally farming for fun.
Whether it's land cultivated for crops and to grow food or raising animals, they're doing what they love and they feel that it brings them a therapeutic benefit.
Their quest is not for self-sufficiency or their own food but simply to do what they want. They might use non-traditional farming methods or conventional farming methods, they might produce crops or raise animals or grow fruit trees. Whatever it is, they do it as a hobby.
Of course, this doesn't mean that some hobby farmers don't have a successful business and some may work on acquiring land (particularly surrounding land), growing crops, or raise livestock for profits. It's just not the primary purpose of many farmers in this area of farming – fun is.
How Do These Farms Work? What Constitutes A Hobby Farm?
Most farms of this nature start small. The farmer will begin by trying to decide what sort of activities they want to undertake and then how this will fit in with their lives particularly if they have good off-farm jobs already.
They'll talk to other farmers, so for example, if they want to raise dairy cows, they'll visit dairy farms and ask the people there what they should be aware of and what will make life easier for them.
Then, they start producing food but a project a time, instead of throwing themselves in with all 50 acres, they take a bit of free land and then develop their first farming habit on it (say raising dairy goats) and master it.
Once they have that mastered, they move on to the next project – such as they might start to grow crops for fresh food all year round or rearing animals to produce meat.
They also try not to incur debt. The basic idea of buying land and forming a limited liability company ought to be a long way down the path of a hobby farmer's journey.
Really, the first step is to have something that might compete with the term “homestead” before they race to embrace all the animals and agricultural products that they might be capable of. The most important thing is to have fun, not make money.
How Many Acres Is Considered A Hobby Farm?
There is no official definition and you could say that any farm that isn't a fully commercial farm, might be considered as a hobby farm – however, in the main, hobby farms tend to be thought of as those smaller than 50 acres.
Are Hobby Farms Worth It?
That's really down to you. There's great joy in having domestic animals and other animals, ornamental plants, and food crops all on healthy soil, and all of it coming from your own efforts for some people.
For others, the idea of creating agricultural goods in their spare time is not so exciting. This is pretty much true of any hobby, isn't it? Some people love the idea, for example, of going kit surfing and others would rather not.
That's OK. But it's a good idea to decide what you want out of a hobby before you take up one like running a farm – it's a lot of work and if your primary goal is just making money, you will probably find there are easier ways to get it than bringing up livestock on your own land.
Oh, and if you do make money, prepare to explain that income to the Internal Revenue Service and deal with the hassles that many farms working on a commercial basis do. You may also find that if you buy land, you need to explain the profits to the IRSS too.
Final Thoughts On Homesteaders Vs Hobby Farmers
It's easy homesteading is for self-sufficiency, hobby farming is for fun. They're both great things to do with your time and deep down they both have the same drive underpinning the activities, they're just done for different results.