Getting started

As with any new business, starting a small farming business can be a daunting task. The fact that there are different taxation rules that apply specifically to small businesses in the agricultural sector can complicate matters even more.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO) website contains a plethora of information relating to hobby farm business structures, possible tax deductions and options for claiming losses, but we have condensed the most important information in this article.

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So, you’re thinking about throwing in the towel at your city gig and moving to the country for some peace, quiet and fresh air. A shift  in gear that gives you  time to start work on that novel you’ve always wanted to write, raise some ducks and a cow or two and grow your own veggies.

You crave a quieter existence and the joys of hobby farming, but you want to do it without channelling Chevy Chase’s character from Funny Farm, whose attempts to embrace rural life are wrought with one disaster after another.

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Article as seen in the November edition of Money magazine by Susan Hely.

Questions: What is the smartest way forward financially for us given that Clare will not be working for some time? Should we invest in shares, buy an investment property or focus on paying down the mortgage? What is the best way to buy land, build a house and set up a hobby farm?

Names: Clare and Michael

Status: Married and expecting a baby.

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Anton and Fiona Bombara are seasoned organic growers.

Critical skills
The Bombara's believe that observation and timing are the two most critical skills required in organic production.

“We learnt a lot empirically — making mistakes, observing the effects, applying what we considered to be the solution and then assessing the results."

"By observation we determined optimal planting and harvest times according to insect life cycles."

"We wanted to grow a variety of crops to get away from ‘one-crop’ farming," said Fiona.

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Anton and Fiona Bombara are seasoned organic growers.

Their organic market garden business in the Peel region of Western Australia has flourished from a part-time enterprise growing only watermelon, tomatoes and capsicum to a full-time business employing four additional staff and producing a wide range of summer and winter crops.

The Bombara's are 'idealists' and started with organics because they wanted to be able to produce better quality food in a way which wasn’t destructive to the land.

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Debbie has put her product development skills to good use to diversify the range of Swan Valley Honey products.
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Debbie Starr is a talented and experienced chef and also the luminary behind Swan Valley Honey.
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Leasing land can be a great way to get into agriculture or expand your existing business without the high capital cost of purchasing land. For the landowner, it can also provide a steady income from land they are not currently farming.

Before you enter into any agreement you should consider the length of the lease, the cost, each parties' responsibilities, restrictions on the property and what should happen in the case of a default or dispute.

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Nobody should buy a small farm on a whim. Whatever your reasons for buying a small farm – whether it’s a going to be your retreat, weekender, hobby  farm, conservation or self-sufficiency block, or maybe an investment or a working farm – you shouldn’t make any decisions before considering these  important purchasing tips.

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“What can I do with my small farm?” is a question I’m regularly asked. My response is usually: Well, what would you like to do and what will your farm  allow you to do? If you are thinking of buying a small farm, you should always have a vision of how you would like your prospective farm to look.

You should also have an understanding of the livestock or enterprises that you would like or are capable of running. Purchasing a small farm and realising later that it won’t suit your needs due to its location, resources or climate can be a costly and disheartening mistake.

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