If you’ve got a good-sized property and some extra time, a hobby farm may be exactly what you need. It’s a lot of work, but the end result is incredibly satisfying.
People decide to farm for many different reasons. You might simply want to get back to your roots by putting your hands in the warm earth or you just can’t get the taste of those sweet, juicy strawberries fresh off the vine from your grandmother’s garden out of your mind. Maybe you’re understandably worried about the amount of chemicals and pesticides commercial food is saturated with. Or maybe you want to brighten your corner of the world with beautiful flowers.
Georgia farmland is versatile, and you’re not limited to any one thing. You can grow flowers and Christmas trees and ugly tomatoes, and still raise goats and chickens. So the first question to ask is:
What’s your end goal?
Knowing what your goal is will help you plan what to plant and even help you decide how to layout your plots. Do you want to grow food for your family, attract wildlife, stock the perfect fishing pond, or plant the perfect pumpkin patch for local youngsters to enjoy? You could start a micro-business and sell a specialty plant like lemongrass or mushrooms to local restaurants, or build hives to attract honeybees – for obvious reasons.
There are so many possibilities! Generally speaking, hobby farms are strictly for pleasure, but you may be starting your hobby garden with the idea of turning it into a business. Before you start, decide where it’s going and how you will scale (or not). That will help you decide how to parcel your land and what to plant, build, and buy. And by the way….you know you’re going to need a tractor.
Let’s start with some ideas for different kinds of farms.
Growing fruits, herbs, and/or vegetables
With careful planning, you can grow a surprising amount of food in a fairly small area. There are many varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs with high yield for minimal space. What you do need is rich, aerated soil, the proper sun exposure, water, and proactive ways to keep animals and pests from eating your goodies.
Resources to help you plan what to plant:
Georgia’s Farming and Gardening Sector: The Top 10 Easiest Veggies to Grow
You’re probably going to want some animals on your hobby farm, but once again, you need to define the purpose. You might want to raise livestock for meat or milk, to ride, or even unusual or exotic animals.
With animals, whether you’re raising chickens or peacocks, miniature horses, pigs, or llamas, you’ll need indoor shelter and outdoor pens, and you’ll need to plan food sources to get you through the year.
Hobby farm livestock resources:
I’ll be honest, when I came across Considerations for Agritainment Enterprise for Georgia, it took me a minute to figure out what “Agritainment” means, and then it made perfect sense. Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, petting zoos, historic experience farms, nature hikes…
Agritainment sounds like a lot of fun!
Trees can be both ornamental and a lucrative side business. Pine is low maintenance and always in demand, but you may want to grow fruit or nut trees, Christmas trees, or other ornamentals.
Tree farm resources:
Can you plan your farm to attract specific wildlife? Oh, yes you can! We recently published a guide to planning a deer habitat. If you’re not a hunter, here are some other wildlife you can plan specifically to attract:
Aquaculture is farming aquatic plants and/or animals. If you have a good sized freshwater pond on your property, you could stock it with trout, catfish, or tilapia. In brackish or salty water, saltwater life may be able to adapt. You could raise oysters, clams, or even shrimp. Think that’s crazy? So did I, until I saw this John Deere video about a saltwater shrimp farm in the middle of Alabama…150 miles from the coast!
No matter what your purpose, a tractor is going to be absolutely invaluable to the hobby farmer. You may be clearing and tilling land for planting, hauling feed and mineral blocks for livestock, spreading feed, pulling a hay wagon full of kids, baling hay, or putting in fencing. And of course you’re going to have grass to mow. Tractors do all of that and more.