Hobby and small-scale farming is growing across the United States as more people become interested in producing their own food, particularly in times of unexpected shortages. But what is a hobby farm, exactly? And how are they regulated? We explore what a hobby farm is, what you can grow, and the regulations you may need to adhere to if you start your own.
What Is a Hobby Farm?
There are many types of hobby farms, but they all begin as a hobby—a person growing crops and/or raising animals because they like it. A farm is classified as a hobby farm when the farmer has a main source of income outside the farm. There is no expectation for hobby farmers to make money at all. Though some hobby farmers operate as a small business and make money on their operations by selling at farm stands, farmers markets, and local stores.
Benefits of Hobby Farming
Express Your Values
By farming yourself, you know that the products you make are ethically raised. This includes the way you treat the environment, the pesticides you use (or don’t use), what you feed your animals, and the condition of your farm. Farming products made with high ethical standards may be valuable to you beyond the money that you can potentially make.
Depending on the revenue (if any) you make from your hobby farm, you may be exempt from paying taxes on that income. If you choose not to file taxes on hobby farm income, however, you will forfeit the ability to deduct any losses you incur on your tax return.
There is no pressure for a hobby farmer to become a larger operation because you still maintain your main source of income. Many hobby farmers start out small and grow their farm bit by bit.
This way, you can grow what you want, when you want, and only add what you love. If you start doing something that you don’t find rewarding or don’t like doing, you can switch to something else!
Hobby Farm Products & Services
The following farm products and services are popular on farms in Mississippi and Louisiana (including hobby farms):
- Fruits & Vegetables
- Grains & Cereals
- Meat & Poultry
- Trees, Flowers & Landscaping Plants
- Succulents & Indoor Plants
- Bees, Honey & Pollination Services
Choosing Plants & Crops
If you don’t know what you want to grow, start by finding your climate zone to see what grows best where you will have your farm. Louisiana has climate growing zones 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, and 10a, and Mississippi has zones 7a, 8a, and 8b. Browse some varieties of plants great in each of these zones:
There is an incredible variety of animals that thrive on farms in the south, but choose a breed that is made to thrive in a hot climate. Establish your herd slowly to make sure you add animals that you enjoy. For example, if you want to start raising chickens, try three to six at first (chickens are happiest with friends). If you don’t like them, they can easily be rehomed. Then, you can try out something else, like a pair of Nubian goats. Make sure that the size of your acreage supports the livestock you bring aboard.
Rules and Regulations
A hobby farm is small, both in size and in revenue. Your hobby farm may be small enough to exempt it from the local, state, and federal rules and regulations that govern larger farming operations.
You can learn more about these regulations, broken down by farm product, in the Direct Farm Business Guides for Louisiana and Mississippi. These guides contain information on specific crops, the licenses you’ll need to sell them, and the thresholds for health and safety you’ll have to meet. Generally speaking, the more you sell, the more regulated your farm will be.
Hobby Farm Land
With rural land available for purchase in Louisiana and Mississippi, moving to the country to start the hobby farm you’ve always dreamed of is within your reach. You can browse available rural properties via online services like Landsofamerica.com.
Our lenders are very familiar with rural property so take advantage of getting to know one of our rural expert loan officers. We can help you finance the perfect property for a hobby farm.
Insurance for Hobby Farms
Even if you do not turn a profit, your money is invested in your hobby farm. Make sure that the gear you have accrued, which may include barns and sheds, fencing, tractors and more, is properly insured. Your specific farm may be insured under a farm policy, or you may be insured under a homeowner’s policy with additional riders. Document your purchases with photos, video and ownership papers, and have your agent help you insure them for their replacement value should they be damaged or stolen.
Financing for Hobby Farms
Hobby farms are generally built on land that contains your home in the country. Southern AgCredit offers financing for country homes in many areas of Louisiana and all of Mississippi. We offer homesite loans in agriculturally zoned properties as well as construction home loans on existing rural property.
Take the First Step
Contact Southern AgCredit to tell us about the hobby farm you want to build, and we will help you take the next step to finance it. Fill out the form below.