Australians are loving hobby farms. There's more than 60,000 ‘small lifestyle farms’ across Australia and that number is growing.
Raising minature 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.
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.
"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.
Before you buy
Good advice to anyone considering buying a hobby farm is to be clear about what you want from the land.
Before you make a purchase think about whether the property you are looking at has adequate water and the type of soil for what you're planning to do.
Charlie Roberts, founder of FarmStyle Australia - an online community of hobby farm owners who share knowledge and resources says, “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.
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 costs
While living on a hobby farm can be idyllic, there can also be challenges and unforseen costs.
Even seemingly small things like fencing and access road upgrades can set you back thousands of dollars.
Then there's environmental conditions like weather and drought to factor in.
Water is precious and it’s expensive if you have to order the local water supplier to bring a tanker load in.
“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.
Roberts 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”.
Before you jump into running a hobby farm do a budget.
On top of the intial property buy cost, include items such as, insurance, set up costs including machinery and livestock and ongoing costs like maintenance, livestock feed, disease and weed prevention plus visits from the vet.
The more research you do, the more likely you are to enjoy your hobby farm.
For some great real life case studies and tips about buying and running a lifestyle farm check out farmstyle.com.au.
NRMA Insurance covers Hobby Farms - find out more here.