Note: we are not business or tax professionals; please consult your own tax professional before making financial decisions about your farm sales.
As homesteaders, part of our goal is to be self-sufficient – to grow as much of our own food as we can. We do this because we feel strongly that organic vegetables we’ve grown ourselves offer the highest level of nutritional value for our family. We do it because we want to know that the food we are eating does not contain pesticides that are bad for us and bad for the environment. We do it because we love the taste and quality of our own vegetables, and the feeling we get when we pull something from the garden to put on the table a few minutes later.
But let’s face it, we also do it for financial reasons. Growing our own organic vegetables is, in the long run, cheaper than buying them at the store. When I even consider how much it would have cost to buy 300 lbs of organic tomatoes (the amount we were able to harvest last year), I’m dumbfounded. We clearly had enough to share!
The equation, however, isn’t that simple. In order to grow our own vegetables, we have to make investments and spend money on supplies. In our case, we bought property with space to grow and we have to pay taxes on that property, but the truth is you can grow almost as much as we grow in a quarter-acre suburban lot if you follow the “grow food not grass” movement, or you can rent one or two community garden plots.
Setting aside the not insignificant but also not insurmountable issues of land, we have learned that you can provide vegetables for a family of four for a year at little to no net supply cost by creating a friends and family farm share.
We are not ready to become full-fledged farmers, and we don’t grow enough food to operate a full-fledged farm business from our land. But we do grow more vegetables than we need on a plot that is just over 1/8th of an acre. So, for now, we have embraced the idea of being a “hobby farm”.
As defined by the IRS, a hobby farm is simply a farm that does not seek or expect to make a profit. The taxes on our property alone, not to mention mortgage payments and the cost of our truck, mean that there is no way we’re going to be profiting from selling a few vegetables from our farm. But that doesn’t mean we can’t sell farm products to offset some of our costs.
The truth is, we find it hard to hold back when it comes to planting our garden so we typically have an overabundance of vegetables and drive ourselves crazy trying to use or preserve them. Instead, we now give the surplus to our friends and family. Last year, in a practice farm share, we were able to give friends more than $450 worth of vegetables – a win-win.
Beginning this year, we’ve created a mini farm share on our property, made available only to family and friends, and priced at a family and friends rate. We sold it to a former daycare provider, a neighbor, and a colleague from my husband’s office. We provide one grocery bag full of veggies each week to each farm share member and in exchange we earn about $750 between the three members. Meager money when it comes to the overall costs of real life, but not insignificant when you think about using that for 50 seed packets, two or three yards of compost, an assortment of organic fertilizers, and supplies to build one or two long-lasting row covers.
At the same time, we provide all of the vegetables we need for our family for almost the whole year (aside from the need to get some greenery in mid-winter) without having to buy them from the grocery store.
But every little bit counts when it comes to self-sufficiency, so we’ll take it. And perhaps one day we’ll be able to quit our day jobs to sustain ourselves more fully from this little plot we love.
How do you fund your hobby farm?