How to Transition from Hobby Farming to Business Farming

Reader Contribution by Bobbi Peterson
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You’ve already spent time growing your own food and raising animals. You did it in your spare time, perhaps when you got home from a full-time job at the office, but it’s something you enjoy and are good at.

Now, you’ve grown enough food to sustain you and your family, and you’re getting to the point where you have enough that you’re more than happy to give some away to friends and extended family. Heck, it’s possible you even have enough produce to sell at a local farmers market.

Congratulations — you’ve crossed the threshold of hobby farming and into the agricultural field and can now make a profit from your hard work. This small accomplishment might mean you’re ready to grow your farm into a full business. If so, you’ll need to be aware of a few things before taking the plunge.

Be Aware of Costs

When you were farming as a hobby, you had your full-time job to fall back on and cover the cost of supplies and equipment. If you’re going to become a farmer, you need to realize that the work you do on the farm will have to cover all your expenses.

The costs to operate your farm or ranch can get pricey, but it’s possible to cut some costs by buying used farm equipment instead of purchasing equipment that’s new.

Know What You’re Getting Into

Running your own business can be an incredibly stressful prospect, especially if it’s supporting your family. There was no pressure when running a hobby farm because it was something you did in your spare time for fun. Before transitioning from hobby farming into business farming, educate yourself on the skills you’ll need to run a successful farm and what you’ll need to do for your taxes.

See if there are any farming organizations or university outreach programs in your area that can teach you what to expect as an entrepreneurial business farmer. You might also look for a mentor who’s a farmer to whom you can ask questions. They could be an invaluable resource in helping you transition into business farming.

Change Your Focus

Up to this point, you’ve looked at your farm as something relaxing to do when you had the time. But if you want it to be a successful business, you need to look at it as a business. You’ll have to make decisions about your farm based on whether they’re best for it instead of if the choice is right for you and your family.

Develop a Business Plan

Before making the transition from hobby farming to business farming, develop a plan on paper. A plan will give you the opportunity to see what you’ll need and how much time and money it will take to make your farm successful and profitable. Developing a business plan forces you to think realistically, unemotionally, and objectively about transitioning to a new career.

Your business plan will be your road map for running your farm. It’ll help you analyze what you need to do for marketing, sales, manufacturing, and all the other aspects of your ranch so that you can be successful. There are benefits to creating a business plan, and it’s well worth your time to develop one.

Figure Out the Market

When hobby farming, you can grow anything that makes you happy because you are growing it for you and your family. When you transition to business farming, you’ll find more success when you know what the market wants to buy instead of growing what you want and looking for a market to sell it in.

Take it Slow

Transitioning to business farming is a significant step, and shouldn’t be rushed into. Instead, take your time. Most successful businesses didn’t crop up overnight but were built slowly over weeks, months, and years.

Do a little at a time, then test the market and get feedback. Incorporate that information into the next steps, then recheck the market again and get more feedback. Repeating this process will help you learn the best farming practices so that you can achieve your goals.

Transitioning from hobby farming to business farming is a monumental step, but it also comes with risks and pitfalls. Having a clear business plan and goals, along with education and skills, will ensure that you are successful in your endeavor.

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