Make a Career Out of a Hobby Farm
It is possible to make a career out of a hobby farm by obtaining commercial customers for your already prodigious garden(s) and/or livestock production. The character and proximity of surrounding communities will determine the practicality of such an endeavor.
- Evaluate your ability to produce consistent quality and quantity to supply your customers.
- This is a major commitment. The business manager has to be able to depend on your performance and ability to keep them supplied. Some stores might be happy to take what you have. But others will definitely want a committed level of supply. Restaurants would fall into this category. They don't store high volumes and would need to know that you will be there every scheduled delivery day with what they need.
- This reality might cause you to consider a specialty crop or crops. Further, establishing a large hot-house is an excellent selling point for your farm, whether you are in a winter-producing state or not. It can provide some insurance for availability for you and your customer. Winter freezes create supply crises for vegetable outlets and restaurants.
- If you envision livestock production on any commercial scale, you will be dependent upon access to auction yards or meat-packing plants. Raising livestock and processing are two separate businesses normally and for good reasons. Facilities, labor, plant oversight, and maintenance are major meat processing costs and liabilities.
- Survey the communities you think will sustain your agribusiness. You shouldn't make a career out of a hobby farm by giving up your job and staying home to farm. That won't produce income. You must have buyers in advance.
- Make personal visits to the local stores, restaurants, and major grocers in your area. Speak with the managers or owners personally. Inquire whether they would like to buy the products you produce from a local supplier, namely you. Managers will tell you what specific products they would consider, if not all the products you have.
- Don't bite off more than you can chew right out of the gate. Overcommitting to new prospects can destroy your reputation before you get a good hold of the reins. Establish yourself and your farm with what you can manage now and increase the business from there.
- Plan and organize your operation.
- Establish a daily routine for your farm. Is the ideal routine picking and packing in the morning, delivering in the afternoon? Is every other day plan better for preparation and delivery? Your delivery schedule might have to be developed with the input of your customers. Restaurants, for example, will have to receive at times that don't interfere with peak business periods.
- Picking and delivery aren't the only considerations. You have to plant, tend, and maintain equipment. You have to keep the supplies on hand that you need to do business. Eating and sleeping are important too.
- You are transitioning from a hobby farm to a career farm. Bookkeeping is necessary. Nay, it's paramount if you expect to make a living and stay in business. You have to learn how to determine your real costs and profits in order to set appropriate prices. These are natural learning curves, but you have to think about this before you start, not after.