Hobby Farm versus Homestead?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Ravenlost, Nov 12, 2005.

  1. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    24,572
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2004
    Location:
    MS
    What is the difference between a hobby farm and a homestead? To me a hobby farm sounds like something one does for fun. A homestead seems more "hardcore" and basic. I read the threads and posts here and I wonder what I am...a homesteader, a farmer, a hobby farmer, what?

    My husband is an air traffic controller and will be eligible for retirement in two years. He did not grow up on a farm like I did, but has come to love the country life. He finds it more and more difficult to leave the farm to make the 45 minute commute to work. He wants to be here clearing, building fences, gardening, cutting wood, etc.

    We own 96 acres and have lived on the place almost two years. In that time we've had 33 acres planted in hardwoods (9,000 trees) as part of a government wetlands reclaimation program. The State of Mississippi has officially named us a "tree farm". We do not intend on clear cutting these trees once they are mature. Instead we plan to maintain the area by culling damaged/fallen trees for firewood.

    Our organic garden didn't do so well this year due to drought, but I was able to can several quarts of tomatoes, put squash in the freezer and a bushel of sweet potatoes in storage. I also have 24 birdhouse gourds. My husband is hooked and plans to expand the garden next year (we have raised beds and traditional rows). We've planted apple and mulberry trees, blueberry bushes and have plans to add pear and peach trees, plus a strawberry bed.

    In less than two years we've acquired three hens, a rooster and a duck. I have not bought eggs in almost a year now. We managed to get 13 acres plus an acre barn lot fenced. The five horses we have help cut down on bush-hogging and produce some mighty fine fertilizer! We have plans to plant two acres in corn next Spring. This will be feed for the horses and fowl.

    Hubby had collected enough materials to start putting another 20 acres in pasture. This will be used for a few head of cattle. I'm still trying to convince him to raise a pig. I think a pig pen built around one of our overgrown areas (wild rose and honeysuckle) would be an easy way to get the area cleaned out and to fill the freezer!

    Drainage work (another government project we signed up for) has just been completed on a 13 acre field. Plans now are to get it plowed under and sowed with burmuda grass. It currently has a mixture of grass and weeds and we've been letting a local guy cut it for hay (he has cows) in exchange for a couple round bales. Saves hubby having to bush-hog and the bales can be used in the horse stalls. A friend of ours will do the work on the new hay field and bale it for us for a 60/40 split. Seems like a great deal to us.

    We get set-aside payments from the government so our farm has an income, but what are we? We aren't self-sufficient, but could be should it come to that. We like our large on-grid house with central air and heat, but did insist on a wood-burning fireplace and we cut our own firewood (and think we could have a small income selling firewood some day). We have well water and are not on city sewage. We grow some of our food and plan to grow more of it with each passing year, but we'll always buy some things at the grocery store.

    We do not allow hunting on our property (although we will both eat venison) and we will never be able to kill and process our own meat, but we do enjoy harvesting fruits, etc. from the wild. We have six dogs and five cats and will take in any homeless animal. We take our pets to the vet regularly. We like to go out to eat once in a while and we enjoy our satellite TV service.

    Does this make us a homestead? Or, are we just hobby farmers?
     
  2. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    9,569
    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2003
    Location:
    CHINA
    I would say you are very lucky! Do you really need a label so long as you are happy with what you are doing? and can afford it....
     

  3. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    7,576
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Canada
    Most around here would call what you are doing as a farm. If you are classified as a 'Tree Farm' , than that is what it is. Adding other animals or gardening, etc. without serious intent to make a farm profit, would classify it as a hobby farm in my opinion.
     
  4. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    24,572
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2004
    Location:
    MS
    No, we don't need a label, but sometimes when I'm here reading threads I just wonder how others would view what we are doing. When we bought the place a lot of people said we were getting in over our heads and that it would be to much work for the two of us (we both have health problems), etc. etc.

    The other day one of the guys hauling hay said it was amazing how much we'd done to the place since we moved here and it kind of took us by surprise. I guess we hadn't stopped to take stock because there's still so much we want to do...so many plans and dreams for the place. And for us, what we're doing is just living our lives so we really don't notice what transformations we've brought to the place. There's never been a house on this place. It was just abandoned cotton and hay fields with some old fencing on it when we bought it.

    Hmmm...everything we add has some type of profit...be it monetary or otherwise. We garden to have fresh food which profits us healthwise and money wise (less spent at the store). The cats catch mice, the dogs provide protection and companionship, etc. If we didn't profit from something we wouldn't have it. I guess I consider profit more than just monetary, although we are always looking to farm profit for tax reasons!
     
  5. Pat

    Pat Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    542
    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2004
    Location:
    Arkansas
    I whole heartly agree with mpillow (long as your happy why worry with a label). We are in a similar situation. But, we only have 14 acres (and we haven't signed up for any government assistance). We raise hair sheep (we like to eat lamb), and we have feeder calves and feeder pigs. We raise them in 2's or 3's keeping one for us, and selling the others (it helps pay for the feed cost of the animals, and really gives us our beef and pork free). We also raise turkeys, chickens, geese, ducks and Muskovy ducks. We also have guineas (for tick and chigger control), the geese and guineas are our alarm system too. We do take all the animals off to the butcher shop, but slaughter and dress all the birds ourselves.

    We are supplement feeding the calves in the garden area for more fertilizer for next year, and we use the pig tractor (luggable 4 by 16 pen) that we move up and down the rows in the garden (we use the wide row gardening). The pigs till down 8 - 10 inches, eat all the bugs and throw the missed rocks to the side. Running them through the garden reduced our feed bill by about a third last year for them too. (And it gives them something to do.)

    Our garden was a failure this year due to the drought around here. We're also trying to get a orchard started (with about 70 different fruit trees), and a couple of berry patches.

    We too have a on grid house, and just installed a wood buring stove. Hopefully it will provide all our heating this winter. We've put up a little over 4 cords of wood for this winter, and have about 1 1/2 cords starting to season for next winter.

    Most the time we just call ourselves Hobby Farmers that are trying to be self sufficent. Seems like most people either don't understand trying to homestead or if they know homesteading then it seems to have a negative connotation.

    Again, I agree with mpillow, why go for a specific lable if y'all are enjoying what your doing? The other point is you don't know what y'all will grow into in another 2 years. I know we've changed a lot since we moved here 2 years ago too. I'm really looking forward to where we are in 2 more years (if nothing more the fruit trees should start producing by then!)

    Pat
     
  6. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    7,576
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Canada
    What is the difference between a hobby farm and a regular farm?
    There is no commonly accepted definition of a hobby farm. One approach to making this distinction is to compare a hobby to a business. Webster's dictionary defines a hobby as "a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation." In most cases the recreational activities that we choose cost us money (for equipment, fees and travel etc.) yet we do not expect any income from them. On the other hand a business is defined as a commercial venture undertaken with an expectation of profit. Thus if you realistically expect to make a profit from your farming activities you have a farm business and if not you have a hobby farm.

    Homestead is basically the home and adjacent grounds occupied by a family.
     
  7. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    24,572
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2004
    Location:
    MS
    LOL...thanks Moonwolf. Based on your definitions I assume we're all of the above...a farm, a hobby farm and a homestead.

    It has always seemed to me that "hobby farm" has a negative connotation on this board.
     
  8. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    7,576
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Canada
    Yeah. Just depends if you are talking to a city slicker or hard core farmer might not smile on a 'hobby farm' idea. Many hobby farms I think are very positive human endeavors.
    The definitions based also are who you are talking to. Your accountant or taxman will see profits from the 'Farm'. Your sensibilities define your lifestyle as 'homestead', and your friends or 'hobby' animals might see you as the 'hobby farmer'. Get 3 hats. :p
     
  9. Pat

    Pat Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    542
    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2004
    Location:
    Arkansas
    I agree totally with moonpups... think I've got those 3 hats too!

    I also agree around here (the forum), the "hobby farm" has the negative connotation, but around here (the town / county) "homesteading" has the negative connotation. That's why I said trying to be self sufficent. We have only our own beef, pork, lamb and chicken in the freezer. We have turkeys to butcher for Thanksgiving, and a couple of ducks I'll probably do the same time as the turkeys and just put them in the freezer also. The geese got a reprive as one of the dogs now keeps them off the carport (they were fixing to be ate too, even though we only have 2), so now they can breed next year and we will sell goslings etc (plus put goose in the freezer too).

    All I now do is "play" with our acreage (I was able to retire early so literally it's all I do)... but don't really try for a profit. It's more to put things in the freezer / cupboard etc. The animals (and eggs) we sell help defray the price of the animals we keep and the feed for them. I do hope to be able to sell fruit in the coming years, but again that will help pay for putting the orchard in (and supporting other endeavors like replacing fences, adding another pond, maybe trying another animal etc.)

    Pat
     
  10. ajaxlucy

    ajaxlucy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,799
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2004
    Location:
    Indiana
    I sure don't farm for profit, and we're not even close to self-sufficient, but we might be called homesteaders because of our chickens, turkeys, vegetable garden and fruit trees. On the other hand, our Shetland sheep are closer to hobby animals. They do give us wool, but we've never eaten one.
     
  11. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

    Messages:
    28,248
    Joined:
    May 20, 2004
    Location:
    SE Missouri
    I think a 'hobby' farm is one that doesn't make a profit. That is how the tax guys call it anyhow. And they don't (yet) call it 'profit' unless you have $$$$ to show (and tax). OTOH, there has been talk of the IRS coming up with some 'inferred' income garbage so they can tax your garden and your poultry and anything else they think they can get away with.

    Way I stand right now, it is going to be a long time before I show a profit on my little farm. But I have eggs and meat and will soon have garden truck and fruit from the trees I planted. I get fresh air and healthful excercise and entertainment that you won't find on tv. And I am doing something worthwhile in helping preserve rare breeds. And I don't have to commute or have a boss hanging over me. So that is 'profit' enough.
     
  12. homebirtha

    homebirtha Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,259
    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Location:
    Maryland
    It's all semantics, in the eye of the beholder, and all that. But, when I hear hobby farm, I think of someone who is keeping animals for their own enjoyment, not as a business venture. i.e. They're not trying to make money on what they have. Like someone with a few horses, or a couple of sheep to do the mowing. ya know?

    Homesteaders are mostly looking for self-sufficiency. Maybe they sell a lot of their farm products, or maybe they mostly just produce for themselves, but the prime factor is working towards greater self-sufficiency.

    Farmers are those who are doing it as a business. They probably sell most of what they produce. They're at least trying to make a profit on what they do. It's their job, or at least, on of their jobs.

    That's how I would sum it up.
     
  13. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    24,572
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2004
    Location:
    MS
    I guess we better start wearing those three hats! We have the five horses for pleasure...plus the benefit of not having to bush-hog and the free (?) fertilizer. So that makes this a hobby farm.

    We are striving to be more self-sufficient by growing more and more of our own food (eggs and veggies right now). That makes this a homestead.

    We try to make an income (definitely not showing a profit yet) with the hay, trees, etc. so that makes us farmers.

    I'm going to get some strange looks when I go to town wearing three hats!
     
  14. Explorer

    Explorer Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    2,644
    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2003
    Location:
    Far West in the White Mountains, Arizona
    I believe (?) the IRS rules are based on profit for x out of x' years.

    Some states, North Dakota I am familiar with, defines a hobby farm as having farm product sales less than a certain amount of dollars (ND is $2500).

    Homesteading is a state of mind. If you think your one, then you are.
     
  15. Jenn

    Jenn Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    7,222
    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2004
    Location:
    Alabama
    I call myself a hobby farmer because I do not plan or expect to make a living from farming, even with any government welfare support I might qualify for. I will not stop working/DH working for an outside income until we have enough savings to live off the income from the savings/retirement payments when they come. I just don't have the confidence that I'd be a good enough farmer and I know that even good earning farmers don't make as much money as I've been used to making (And spending to some degree).

    Now I will indeed file a schedule F and claim that I'm planning and hoping to make a profit from my farming. My last farm I claimed losses for 2 years and then in my third year filing- when I sold everything because we moved- I made a small taxable profit. Certainly not enough to pay all our expenses and I am unsure I'll ever again make a profit if we don't sell up again, but farm taxes are pretty lenient and since I'll have to pay taxes on any income I get from it I might as well deduct the expenses from the beginning.

    Yet even though I'm a hobby farmer I have a homestead I am working on making provide many if not all of my needs. Certainly I don't expect or plan for my farm to provide all my needs as Laura Ingalls' nearly did for her. A lot easier to work a few hours off the farm (perhaps years earlier and then bank it for investment income) to pay for my internet than to sweat and be anxious that the farm income may not cover the mortgage let alone utilities necessary or luxury.

    But I will not realistically make (all) decisions based on farm profit- if I want a solar fence or a pretty fence or an easy fence I'll spring for it even if it'll never pay off compared to the 'best' choice financially.
     
  16. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    24,572
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2004
    Location:
    MS
    Just to clarify - the farm subsidies we receive are not welfare programs.
     
  17. sullen

    sullen Question Answerer

    Messages:
    3,119
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2004
    Location:
    ME
    I always grew up with the ides of "hobby farming" being what rich people do with their animals. I am a survivor farmer because I don't want to pioson myself with the CRAP they sell at the store.
     
  18. ace admirer

    ace admirer Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,875
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2005
    farm is expected to make a profit one out of the first five years of startup, then 3 out of 5 years from then on for irs. you COULD be considered a hobby farm is not meeting that criteria...seems they don't look at it too hard...

    a hobby farm: you are allowed to take all expeneses off your (primary) income for as many years as you wish..any income above expenses, you pay taxes on.

    this welfare thing.....lets get that straight right away...95% of all farm sub. go to FOUR corperate owned farms in the usa... AGM is number three. number one is a rice farm, but can't remember corp name. its all public information.. you can see list per state/county/name. used to have the web page but that was lost many computer crashes ago. when the politicians talk about farm bills and "small farmers" or "the family farm" they are full of cow patties....the money goes where it always goes...to the rich.
     
  19. Shepherd

    Shepherd Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    5,499
    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2005
    Location:
    IA
    I would have to agree with mpillow. WHO cares what people would consider you? Altho I've often wondered the same thing. LOL. Sounds like you're almost in the same position as my husband and I.

    We started with 40 acres and now are up to 120... about 1/3rd of it is heavily forrested so we have more than enough naturally fallen trees for firewood. I'd say we heat about 90% or more with wood heat... and rely on the furnace for backup. We're on a well and septic too. We have deer, wild turkey and stocked a 2 acre pond we had excavated a few years ago.

    We just raised our first steer & pig - picked the meat up from the locker today. I am amazed that a steer will completely fill a large upright deep freeze (except the door section)... thankfully we have 2 large ones and 1 smaller one which is holding the pork and excess stuff I keep around.

    I still want to get either small breed cows we can milk, or get dairy goats. We're in the process of checking into raising honey bees too. We've planted a large variety of fruit trees - 2 a year since we've moved here. We also have a lot of wild fruits.

    My husband feels the same as yours - he hates having to go to work (also 45 miles away) when he'd rather stay here - he loves it so and there's always so much to do. I was able to finally quit working outside the home 2 years ago and love it. But he figures he'll need to work an additional 10 years or so before he can retire. Recently tho, we've been talking about maybe it's time to start utilizing the farm for our income instead of working for some company that pays fairly well but treats you badly. We'll have to see what we can come up with.

    Meanwhile we continue trying to become as self-sufficient as we can. I'm happy for you - sounds like you're right on track!
     
  20. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    24,572
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2004
    Location:
    MS
    Thanks Shepherd. It amazes me what we've been able to do in less than two years. In another two years I think we'll be okay when hubby retires. I would also like to get a few milk goats as I'm dying to try goat butter! We shall see.