15 Ideas for Your Small Hobby or Backyard Farm

So you’ve got a nice piece of land – around 5 acres or so, and you want to do something with it, but you’re not sure what. 

Is small-scale farming for profit a good fit, or would a hobby farm be a better idea? If you can’t pin down what to do, this list of small farm ideas might get your creative thoughts flowing and help you begin your project.

1. Plant Vegetables

Growing vegetables on a backyard farm is a must – whether you grow them to feed your family or to sell in local markets for added income.

green lettuce heads growing in rows

You don’t need extensive experience, but you should know the basics. Read about what types of plants grow well in your growing zone, when to plant them outside, how to care for them, and when to harvest. 

A garden tiller helps get your patch of soil ready for planting. If you don’t have your own, you might know someone who can help you out, or you can rent one. Once the soil is prepped, you only need a few heavy-duty hand tools, a wheelbarrow, and hoses for watering. 

2. Build a Greenhouse

Having a greenhouse means you can start your plants inside during the off-season and be ready to plant them as soon as your soil has warmed up. If you have extra plant starts, you can sell them too. This is a profitable venture because your only costs are the seeds and a small pot of dirt. 

small greenhouse set in the middle of blooming flower garden

Your greenhouse doesn’t need to be an expensive, elaborate structure. You can make a nice one with PVC pipe and plastic. Later, if you discover that you can’t live without one, build one that is more permanent. 

3. Raise chickens

Chickens are easy to care for, they produce lots of eggs, and they don’t eat a lot. A hen starts laying at about 18 weeks old and produces one egg every 24 hours during the first year. 

You’ll need a coop with laying boxes and a roosting perch, but it doesn’t need to be elaborate. The birds should be warm (or cool) and protected from predators.

chicken and a rooster foraging on the ground

Chickens love to roam around the fields and eat bugs, worms, and plants, enhancing the flavor of their eggs. Just make sure your plants are protected if your chickens are out!

4. Hatch your own chicks

To maintain optimum egg production, it’s best to have younger hens. You can hatch your own chicks and reduce the cost of buying replacement hens.

You will need an incubator and a dedicated setup to keep the chicks warm until they are ready to join the flock. Incubators come in a variety of sizes and complexities, so choose one that fits your situation.

It takes 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch, and chicks should be kept separate and warm until they are around six weeks old. 

Just remember, if you want to use your chickens’ eggs to hatch, you need to have roosters in your flock. 

5. Build A Compost Pile

If you’re growing vegetables, you need organic compost to add essential nutrients to your soil. Building your own compost pile is a great way to use household waste mixed with organic matter collected from your yard. 

vegetable scraps decomposing in comport pile with hands holding fully composted soil

You can build your own or buy a compost bin ready to go. Turn your pile every seven days or a compost tumbler every three days. You’ll have compost in about three to four months, depending on the material used and weather conditions. 

6. Raise Worms

Worms eat your kitchen scraps and produce rich worm castings that add nutrients to your potting soil and help seedlings grow strong. 

You don’t need experience to get started, but you need to buy worms and have a place to keep them out of the elements. Start with 1000 worms and a proper worm bin for them, you’ll have fun, and it could turn into a lucrative venture once the worms begin multiplying. 

7. Grow Organic

Stay away from chemical fertilizers and pesticides for your small-scale farming projects to protect the food you produce, your soil, bees, and butterflies that come to visit, and to boost your profit margin by adding value to your products. 

You don’t need a lot of experience to grow organic, but having some knowledge of what crops work in harmony or natural bug repellants can help you increase production.

8. Choose Heirloom Varieties

heirloom tomatoes growing on the vine

Heirloom plants come from seeds that have been saved and grown for many years and passed down from person to person. The varieties available in your region are generally the ones that are most successfully grown in the region. 

Heirlooms are more flavorful, higher in nutrition, and open-pollinated, so you can collect seeds for the next season. Heirloom produce gets premium prices at local markets, too. 

9. Plant Fruit Trees And Vines

ripe apple trees in orchard with barrels filled with picked apples

Fruit trees and vines add beauty and value to a backyard farm. Plant types that are suited for your climate, and you can start picking within two years. 

Raspberry and blackberry vines do well in shaded areas. You can sneak them in along the borders of your land so they don’t take up space in your vegetable garden. 

10. Grow herbs

Herbs are popular items at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. You can sell them in bulk or in pots as added-value products. Grow herbs in your greenhouse or in your garden, where they act as natural insect repellents. 

11. Beekeeping

bees around an active honeycomb and manmade beehive

Raising bees provides honey, beeswax, and bees for pollination. You can sell your products and get some extra income and have lots of healthy, sweet honey to eat too. 

Beekeeping isn’t easy, but beginners can do it, so don’t feel intimidated. There are courses online and community classes to help you learn. You’ll need to buy equipment and bees, which can run into the hundreds of dollars depending on where you go. 

12. Raised Beds

If you don’t have fertile soil or room for planting in-ground, raised beds are a good option. You can place them where you want and grow just about anything in them. You can make your own or purchase ready-made. 

13. Attract Bees And Butterflies

2 bees and a butterfly on a bring pink blooming bee balm

If you have up to 5 acres of land, you have space to plant indigenous wildflowers that attract bees and butterflies. The nectar and pollen from the plants feed the bees and butterflies, and in turn, they help pollinate your vegetable and fruit plants. 

14. Add Flowers

Not only do flowers add color and beauty to the garden, but they also help deter pests and are beneficial to vegetable plants. Tomato worms hate calendula, deer won’t come near lavender, and marigolds repel whiteflies and squash bugs. Also, fresh flowers are hot sellers in farmer’s markets.

You might have to do some reading to find the flower-vegetable combinations that work best for your small-scale farming project, but the results are worth it. 

15. Add More Animals

When you feel more confident running your hobby farm, you can add more livestock. Goats and sheep are suitable for beginners because they’re small and quite timid. You’ll need a dedicated space for them to live, a feeding trough, and something to hold water. 

young goat making friends with a young sheep behind wire fencing on the farm

Goats and sheep love to graze outside, and they’ll head right for your fruit and vegetable patches if they get loose. An enclosed space for them outside or protection for your garden is well-advised. 

Once the animals have babies, you can milk them. There’s a great market for fresh milk and cheese if you have enough to sell. Just make sure you know the local regulations for selling animal products beforehand. 

And remember, raising animals is a 24/7 job, so if you can’t make that commitment, you shouldn’t. 

Summary

If you’re just getting started on your small-scale farming adventure, it’s best to start out slowly. Don’t go all-in on one big idea. Diversify! That way, you’ll get a good feeling for what works best for you, your family, and your precious land.