Updated: Jun 16, 2020
What we are doing is sometimes referred to as hobby farming. I understand that description because the farm is not our primary source of income. However, we prefer farmsteading or crofting to hobby farming. Our lifestyle is patterned after the traditional Scottish croft, a family house surrounded by small farm plots and pastures where the owner-occupier or tenant works the land. Most crofters like us earn their living at other jobs, but also work as a community to keep the land productive, preserve a way of life, and sustain the natural environment. Hobby farming on the other hand seems to imply that we just do it for fun in our extra time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Animals have to be fed and watered twice a day everyday regardless of weather, busyness, or sickness. Plants have to be planted within a certain window and harvested daily when they come in. Cleaning is continuous to protect against disease and contamination. The lists goes on and on. I make this point not because I have a chip on my shoulder, but because I don't want people to take on hobby farming with the wrong perceptions.
I will frequently compare family farmsteading (using your home place to raise animals and crops) to large commercial farming. My point is not to attack commercial farming. It has its place. My objective is to defend what has been crowded out by commercial farming and I don't mean just the business aspect. There is a community service, quality of life, culture aspect that is equally worth preserving. The second comparison is to small and medium sized farming business. This is really the backbone of our historical agricultural system. I greatly respect the full-time farmer that is making a go on a small scale. In fact, we want to be careful that our farmstead augments and does not undermine small scale farming as a business. However, it is the small to medium sized farm that is most threatened by the economics of large-scale commercial farming, and frankly it is unlikely that this sector will grow significantly likely the opposite is true.
Farmsteading or crofting is a third way. By using small plots around your home to grow crops and raise animals, farmsteads are keeping alive a tradition and filling a niche in our food system. Providing for some of one's own needs and sharing surplus with the community was a staple of American life at one time. Everyone that could usually had a garden or animal. Farmsteading is also an element of food security for society. Localized self-sufficiency fills gaps and maintains diversity in our food supply. It is especially effective at meeting local food needs and shortages. It may not feed the masses, but it can feed your family and neighbors.
So, our farm is more than just a hobby. We work hard everyday. We're helping keep alive a cultural tradition, and we're helping fill a niche in the food supply. It's not for everyone for sure, but it could be a great option for more people with the right support and encouragement. We've had to give up some activities and most of our free time in order to farmstead while continuing a parallel career, but the sacrifices are worth it.