Most people, when they think of a farm, envision in their heads several hundred acres or more but some farms are smaller. These small farms can be more than just farms with animals and crops. Let’s get started on our journey of learning about small farms.
How Many Acres in a Small Farm
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a small farm consists of 179 acres or less in size. Also to be a small farm their gross income for the year is $50,000 or less.
How to buy Land for a Small Farm
When a person starts a small farm, they will either buy land or an existing small farm. There are many factors that you need to consider before you look for land for your small farm.
How much land: This depends on much land you can afford to purchase and what type of small farm you want to start. Also, you need to know what type of land you will need to start your small farm. For example, if you want to start a small grass-fed beef farm, you need to consider the size of the herd so you can find the land that can support the animals with plenty of grasslands and water.
Land characteristics: This ties in with how much land you need because the acreage does not matter if you do not have the right land characteristics for the type of small farm you want to have. If you are going to have an orchard only, it would need a certain type of land that would be different from the land a vegetable farm would need.
You also want to consider what the wildlife is around there, the flooding or fire potential, drainage, water access for animals if that is the type of farm you want, natural windbreaks, and more. You need to look at the covenants or restrictions to see if you can have the animals you want or can you raise the crops you want.
You also need to make sure if you are starting a small vegetable farm that the land is fertile, that it gets enough sun, water is close by. So before you buy a piece of land or existing small farm, know what you want to do with the small farm and make that it has all you need to make your small farm a success.
Remoteness: This means how close do you want to live to town or have to travel to get supplies. What about internet service, which is something most people cannot live without. How far do you want to be from a hospital, from friends and family, from neighbors, etc? You also need to look at the roads and see if they are maintained by the county and are blacktop or are they gravel roads you might have to grade or plow in snowy weather.
Alternative energy needs: Some possible alternative energy sources can include micro-hydroelectric (water), wind, and solar. Look at the land you are considering to see if it can support one of the alternative energy sources. Can you use them to also generate energy?
Access: You want to make sure that you can easily access your property. Is it on a road that is maintained or will you have to maintain it? How long of a driveway do you want? Look to see if any other access rights go through the land or any other right of ways. If you need something delivered, can they get to your home?
Water: Again, this comes back to the type of small farm that you want to have. If you are raising livestock, you want to make sure there is a pond for the animals to drink from. Will you have to drill a well or does it have access to water from a nearby town?
Types of Small Farms
Most when they think of small farms, they think of vegetables or livestock but there are other types of small farms that you can have.
Tree nursery: This can be a very profitable small farm if done right. Generally, you should start with 10-20 seedlings. You can also buy small trees for around $20. One type of tree nursery or farm would be raising Christmas trees. Others might raise fruit trees, ornamental trees like oak trees.
Fish: For this type of small farm you will need to create fish ponds or large fish tanks to raise the fish to sell. The fish could be sold to local supermarkets, restaurants, or even to fill up ponds for fishing. You might consider raising catfish, carp, bass, or trout.
Dairy: This type of farm is self-explanatory. You would be raising dairy cows to supply milk for the milk companies to pasteurize and sell to the public. Some may even keep some of the milk to make cheeses and butter to sell at a roadside stand or farmer’s market.
Organic: Today, many more are buying organic foods because they feel it is better for them. This farming method is to raise animals that are free-range or vegetables grown without any harmful chemicals.
Visualizing the Acreage of a Small Farm
One acre of farmland is equal to 43,560 square feet
- NFL football is about 1.3 acres
- Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay, CA is 22 acres
- The United States Capitol is 57 acres
- Disneyland in California is about 160 acres
As you can see, the acres a small farm will have is less than 179 acres according to the USDA. To know what size small farm you want, the first thing to decide is what you are going to do with the small farm; raise vegetables, have animals, raise fish? Knowing this will help you decide what size small farm you are going to need. Some have a small farm of just a few acres as a homestead and only raise what they need to survive. Do your research before just buying land so you get the right amount of acres for your small farm.