The Hobby Farm and the Real Hobby Farm


sheep_DSC02339When we moved from central Florida to Westen New York, one of the reasons we moved here was because we wanted to be able to do some small scale farming, or at least have a garden. We have tried various times to make this work and always had some trouble. I think most of that trouble was that we were not really willing to put in the work that it required to get it done, and our results showed.

This year, I think that we have what would officially qualify as a hobby farm. We have chickens, sheep and now a small garden plot. I think and hope things are a bit different than they have been in the past. First, we have other people relying on us to keep the sheep alive, and second we have kind of a model to follow, even if that is kind of our own model.

Four of the six sheep we are hosting belong to folks who belong to our little collective farming project. We all come and work one piece of property and we will all get a share of the crops. It works out pretty well. So there is that motivation. We have to make it work because other people are expecting us to.

But the model that we are following is a little different. Like I said, part of the reason that we likely failed in the past was the amount of work. We were not prepared for it, and not willing to put it in. This year, we are working on the collective hobby farm and getting an idea of what needs to happen. I call this the real hobby farm because while we are using about a 1/3 of our 5 acres for farming and most of that is dedicated to animals, they are using 4+ of their 5 acres. They are using it for various crops. But by putting in the work there, the work that we have to do on our own small garden plot seems almost negligible. Sure the sheep and chicken require work, the middle children and I get up early every morning to go tend to their needs, but it is not a lot of work to feed and water the chickens, or to move the sheep from the barn to the field where spend their days.

Alright, the work that we did yesterday on our own plot did not seem negligible, it took us almost all day, to carve out the plot and get things planted all by Crew_working_DSC02345hand , and only with hand tools. We decided not to try to rent a tiller or any of the other power tools that we normally use, so everything was done with shovels and a pickaxe. It was slow, hot and hard work but I will be honest it really felt good to get it done. I am a bit sore from the two days of work (between 6 and 8 hours each day) but it really kind of feels good. Besides getting out and working with the kids is always a lot of fun, not to mention good for all of us.

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4 thoughts on “The Hobby Farm and the Real Hobby Farm

  1. Mike H.

    I applaud you for getting back to your roots (pun intended). If we weren’t functionally constrained with our neighborhood, and some fundamental goals we have for the kids (neighborhood while they are in grade school), we would do much of the same!

    1. Mike,
      Some times even the neighborhood you live in can make a huge difference. Especially if they are note zoned to allow such things. At the same even if you are zoned correctly you can have trouble. While we and “the real hobby farm” and our property are both zoned the same (rural) we have two very different situations. We have neighbors that A can’t see out land, and B don’t care even if they could. They “real hobby farm” has neighbors who are making life very difficult for them, to the point where the courts are involved.

      Read a or listened to something just recently that talked about a study on kids who stay o the “farm” to work and those that finish school. (I wish I could remember what it was but anyway) (Yes, by listening to something that talked about a study that does make it like 3rd hand knowledge, but…) The point was that making kids stay on the farm to work might work out better in the short term having them not attend school and get the education prevent any real growth or long term gain in terms of that farm. So the trick here is the balance. We do try to limit most of our “farming work” to after school hours and the weekends. While this does limit the amount we can do, I think it gives the kids the experience of work and what it takes to run the farm, but also allows them to attend school and hopefully benefit from both.

      Yes, a long a rambling reply. Thanks very much for the comment.

  2. We are doing something pretty similar! We’ve got nine layers, ten sheep, 7 goats (hosting them here for my brother), a big garden, plans to plant an orchard, and we’re soon getting broilers to raise for meat for the year. It’s fun to have 7.5 acres to play with! I grew up on a farm, but I actually do way more work on our hobby farm then I ever did on the our family farm growing up. I love doing this with our kids, letting them know about life.

    1. We were going to try breeding this year with the sheep, but we were not quiet brave enough for that, and we will need to make improvements to the barn before we can do that anyway so they have a place to stay in the winter. Broilers were also part of our plan this year, and maybe we can do them later this summer, but right now we have our hands full. Thanks for the comment. It is nice to know there are other people out there doing the same sorts of things.

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