Best size for hobby farm?

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clucy's picture
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Joined: 10/04/2014 - 2:58pm
Best size for hobby farm?

I'm trying to get a general feel for what sort of hobby farm my partner and I would need to plan and save for to realize a tree change dream. The ideal would be to be partially or even (dreaming big!) mostly self-sufficient on a small farm when we have a young family in the future. My partner works in an industry that suits running your own business from home online if we go rural, while we already plan for me to stay home with the kids regardless of whether we're rural or city based and I'd rather be being productive with my time producing our own food if I have the choice. We likely wouldn't be looking to run the farm as a primary source of income, but I'm creative and might engage in some value adding activities on the side eg. milk extra goats and make soap, or some such, and I feel small scale production of things we are particularly good at would be handy to hold up our sleeves longer term.

We would be looking likely in the Hunter or Central Coast region of NSW or somewhere else also within a few hours of Sydney, as this is the area our extended family is located in.

Ideally I'd like to hold on to the option to expand and lease excess space out while we're learning and establishing ourselves, and I'm conscious that if for instance we wanted to milk or raise our own beef or other larger animals later on that they usually need a large amount of pasture per animal if we don't want to supplement their feed too much. However, my partner thinks we should only be looking for a handful of acres...

The must haves to start will include chickens, dairy goats, veges and a small orchard to help provide for 4-6 people (possibly a few more depending on in-laws and location if a BnB business opportunity was worth pursuing). In the long run I'm also interested in exploring some of the following, depending on what our land and water options at the time are best suited to: a few cows for meat and milk, sheep, aquaponics or aquaculture, other poultry like ducks or turkeys, pigs, and possibly a horse or two to ride.

Are my eyes too big for my plate when I tell my partner that 2-5 usable acres is far too small and we'd be buying in too much supplemental feed and etc to make it worthwhile trying to cram everything in? What sort of ballpark range should we be considering - 10, 20, 50, more? I've done and will keep learning and researching, but most of what I read directs me to land sizes based on one or two types of farming and I'm hopelessly lost trying to get a feel for the right longer term size for a growing and varied hobby farm.

barb's picture
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Last seen: 6 days 20 hours ago
Joined: 23/11/2011 - 9:38am

Hi there,

difficult to answer. If you buy a smaller block then it would probably be rated by the local council as Rural Residential and would have much higher rates than a larger Rural rated block. It all boils down to what you want to do with the block I guess. If the block is only small then your options are very limited. With a block of only 2-5 acres (1-2 Hectares) Theoretically you could run a couple of milking goats or sheep and grow a few vegies and have some fruit trees and maybe a couple of bee hives and a few chooks, but there wouldn't be a lot of options and I can't see you making a living from a block with such a limited area.

Originally many years ago when I moved from the city to the country with my late husband, we had planned to buy 10-20 acres, but when we looked at what we could do with it and the rates, we realised it would be better to have a bigger block which would give us more options. We ended up buying 400 acres which seemed enormous at the time, but we soon realised that to breed goats and run cattle it was only just enough and wished we had bought a much bigger property. Also, the rates I pay for my block which is classed as Rural are a 1/4 of what my friend who has 20 acres rated as Rural Residential pays.

To cut a long story short, if it were me, I would always go for as much land as I could afford. Leasing out excess land sounds like a good idea as long as it is with formal agreement through your solicitor and not by a handshake. An old saying goes, a contract made with a handshake is only as good as the paper it isn't written on.

I will be interested to see what Rob and Charlie's advice to you is.

Kind regards and I hope that you guys get to live your dream,

Barb

clucy's picture
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Last seen: 5 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 10/04/2014 - 2:58pm

Hi Barb,

Thank you for taking the time to answer, it's really helpful to hear your experience! Sounds like my gut instinct of better to have too much land than too little is along the right track. Rates aren't something I'd even considered yet, so that's another handy point to consider when we're weighing up options.

Cheers!

rmcpb's picture
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Last seen: 5 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 22/10/2012 - 11:13am

I haven't had much to do with really small blocks so what Barb said about the rates is a really good bit of advice. Make sure you check it out.

Now, I have a friend at Mudgee with 100 acres and that suits them. They breed angus beef and have a great time with it. They also have a large vege patch, chook run and orchard so are fairly self sufficient in the greens department.

Another friend had a smaller place in the Hawkesbury, about 15 acres I think. They thought it was huge when they got it but they wanted to run some horses for the kids. Well it turned into a weed infested dust bowl. Enough said.

I would not consider anything less than 100 acres as viable in our climate unless you have a plan for some really intensive and well managed activity like aquaculture or an orchard but you need a fair lot of land just to catch water off so you have a good supply in the dry times.

Enough rambling
Rob.

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