There’s a big difference between those three! Farming generally refers to growing crops and raising animals as a business and livelihood. It can be done on a huge scale involving thousands of acres of land and hired workers to plant and harvest and tend herds. It can be highly mechanized – involving the use of large and expensive equipment and machinery like tractors, balers, and combines (did you know a used combine can cost over $50,000?). Farming can be a risky venture – sometimes it’s great, sometime not. Your success is heavily dependent on factors outside of your control, such as weather, pests and prices. It’s no wonder that the number of farmers in America drops every year and fewer young people go into the field. I don’t aspire to be a farmer.
Hobby farming is farming at a much smaller scale – both in land area and time dedicated to the endeavor. The hobby part comes in because you are supposed to have a real job to pay the bills and do your farming on your time off. You might live in town and travel out to your farm property on the weekend – a system that works best if you don’t have animals that require daily care. In fact some of the books call this weekend farming instead of hobby farming. In addition to growing food for their own use, hobby farmers seem to aim to make a little money – by selling products at a farmer’s market, roadside stand, the internet, or through a CSA (community supported agriculture) association. Except for having a ‘real’ job and farming on the weekend this pretty much describes what I’d like to do.
Homesteading is like hobby farming, only you live on the farm and there is an emphasis on sustainable living that can range from merely trying to produce some of the food you eat, to living totally off the grid. I see us somewhere in between these extremes – living in a rural area without city water, sewer systems and trash pickup is bound to make one more aware of waste and limited resources. If possible I’d like to include water capture (rain barrels) and solar energy in our lifestyle. We already recycle but find we still take bags of trash to the dumpster on a weekly basis so I’m looking at areas where we can reduce waste. Newspaper and cardboard (now recycled) can be used to make a kill mulch for a garden; space for bulk buying will mean larger and fewer containers; and naturally we won’t be buying as much processed foods which will cut down on packaging materials. I’m sure we will think of more things once we are settled.
I hope we will be able to produce things to sell – some ideas are honey and beeswax products, mushrooms, wool – from sheep or angora rabbits, milk, yogurt and cheese (from dairy goats) and goat meat. I’ve been trying to figure out markets (the book on our amazon.com wish list details a study of the farmer’s market in a nearby town) and the flip side of markets – the competition in the area where we will be headed. No point in investing in, or pinning our hopes on, a particular crop or product only to find the market is already sewn up by an established farm or just isn’t there. For instance, it appears that as tempting as farm fresh eggs are there isn’t much of a market for that – apparently everyone has their own hens or has a neighbor or family member who does. I guess even hobby farming can be a risky venture!