05 November 2021
Hobby Farm Boom
Have you always dreamed of living on a hobby farm? Here are 4 things to consider before you ditch the city for the countryside.
Australians love hobby farms. Working in the fresh air, growing food to eat, getting back to nature; it’s no wonder they’re so popular. There's more than 60,000 ‘small lifestyle farms’ across Australia and that number is growing, particularly as people choose to leave the city and embrace work from home roles.
Raising miniature breeds and livestock such as alpacas, sheep, goats and cows are popular choices for first time farmers, but simply running a self sufficient garden and having fruit trees and chooks are also common.
One surprise ‘animal’ that has increased in hobby farm popularity lately is the bee. Small hives are popping up everywhere, giving their owners a harvest of honey. 90% of all beekeepers are thought to be hobbyists, not professionals. One reason for the increase could be that the presence of a beehive is not only a source of honey, it also helps improve the pollination of any crops or flowers being grown in the area.
Who's buying hobby farms?
Chad Mangelson, a Northern NSW rural real estate agent, says most of the enquiries he receives for lifestyle properties are from people who are looking to get out of the city. Many have dreamed of life on a few acres of land for years.
"The two main groups are young families or retirees. Retirees who want privacy, have time on their hands and have a dream of working on acreage.
Then there are families who want space and to give their kids an experience of living on the land - to live a more natural lifestyle," he explains.
"While some want to go way out into the bush, mostly these people are looking for properties close to towns with a real sense of community and with close proximity to amenities like schools and hospitals.
Most of my clients aren’t looking for a financial gain from these properties - they’re just happy to have the space to play around and if they do have some excess produce they might sell it on a roadside stall or at the local markets," he says.
We’ve talked to some rural experts to get their top tips to prepare for the purchase of a hobby farm.
Know what you want from the land
Before you even think of committing to a small acreage, you want to be clear about what you want from the land. What do you want to grow or raise? How much water will you need? What type of soil will you require?
Charlie Roberts is the founder of FarmStyle Australia, an online community of hobby farm owners who share knowledge and resources.
“It’s important to clearly assess the farm’s physical resources as well as your skills and knowledge when deciding if this mix is capable of achieving your goals,” says Charlie.
“Buying land and then changing it to suit your purpose takes time and money. If you can work out your exact framework beforehand, you can select places that are suitable to look at.”
Consider the challenges
While living on a hobby farm can be idyllic, there can also be challenges and unforeseen costs.
Even seemingly small things like fencing can set you back thousands of dollars. Not to mention infrastructure upgrades such as access roads.
Then there's environmental conditions like weather and drought to factor in. Water is precious and it’s expensive to buy if you don’t have enough in your tanks or dams.
“It’s not uncommon for properties to come back on the market in as little as 12 months because well intentioned buyers didn’t fully consider the extra costs of running a small hobby farm and the work involved to run one,” says Chad.
Charlie agrees. "Farming is a tough game and being unrealistic about your level of farming skills or your farm’s resources will only make it harder and less likely that you will achieve your desired goals”.
Be financially prepared
Before you jump into purchasing a hobby farm, do a budget. Consider how much money you’ll need to get setup and how much you expect you’ll need each year for maintenance. While you can make a small profit from selling your goods, the very definition of a hobby farm is that it won’t be your main source of income.
Common regular expenses include items such as insurance, machinery purchases and repairs, livestock feed, disease and weed prevention, plus visits from the vet.
Hobby farms can be idyllic on paper, but a lot of hard work in reality. However ultimately the lifestyle change to living on the land will be immensely rewarding. In short, the best thing you can do before you buy a hobby farm is to research what you want from the land and the work you’ll need to do to maintain it.
Did you know NRMA Insurance covers hobby farms across ACT, NSW, QLD and TAS? Explore our farm insurance options here.