The following information part-time farming comes from Five Acres and Independence by M. G. Kains. Five Acres and Independence is also available to purchase in print.
In recent years there has been a decided movement of city and suburban dwellers to small farms along the roads radiating from centers of population. Part-time farming is becoming increasingly popular as a way of healthful and enjoyable living. To the man or woman whose work is in the city, it offers an opportunity to combine country living with urban employment.
Science now makes it possible for both part-time and full-time farmers to have, without undue expense, the comforts of modern life. The electric power lines will soon be extended along most of the roads of the nation. With electricity one can have running water under pressure, bathrooms, and all the appliances that help to make life easier and more pleasant. It means the farmer can have his own deep-freeze locker and raise his own supply of pork and beef to be used in the summer as well as in the cold winter months. An electric motor will pump water under pressure for the irrigation system.
The advantages of part-time farming are definite. Instead of going on year after year with nothing except a pile of rent receipts, a family can own a place of an acre or two or more, raise much of its own food, and over a period of years own its home. With a big family garden, a few hens, and a goat a family can cut its food bill 50% or more. Living in the country is much more peaceful and satisfying than existing where life is tense and hurried.
There is no definite formula for computing costs. But a general rule which is reasonably accurate in a majority of cases is that it will cost $100 per year for each $1,000 of money invested. Thus a $4000 place will cost approximately $400 a year. This includes interest on the money, depreciation, taxes, maintenance, and a small payment per year on the mortgage. If a man has paid $50 a month rent in city or suburb, not only can he get a roof over the heads of his family for $200 a year less, but also over a period of 20 years or so he will own his home free and clear.
Before we discuss the points to look for in choosing a part-time farm, we will answer the two most frequent questions: What can one do to earn money on a part-time farm? What are the best cash crops? Observation over a considerable area in the Northeast shows many ways the part-time farmer can earn cash to supplement his wages or salary. The best and most profitable plan is to raise small areas of high-priced crops that can be sold at retail from a roadside stand. These include: asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, sweet corn, muskmelons, and squashes. These universally liked specialties bring more profit than the common garden vegetables. It is perfectly possible from one acre of garden to make $500 profit per year. Each part-time place is an individual problem. Get acquainted with the local county agent and ask his advice on crops. Soils, location, water supply, and other factors determine the best cash crops. Don’t go into poultry keeping as a commercial venture. A small flock for home use is profitable. Unless there are several children in the family, keep a goat instead of a cow.
The success or failure of part-time farming depends to a major degree on the location. The main source of income is the work in town or city. A survey taken of actual part-time farmers showed that a drive of 10 miles morning and night was enough. Most of those interviewed stated definitely that 15 miles was the limit. It isn’t merely the question of driving. It’s a question of time. From early spring until into the fall, a man wants to work in his garden, and time spent driving to and from work is time that cannot be used.
Since time and not distance is the actual factor to be considered, it is perfectly possible that a part-time farm 20 miles away from a man’s place of employment is really nearer in terms of minutes than a farm a dozen miles away. It depends on the driving conditions. If one is on a main road or just a very short distance from it, 20 miles can usually be covered in about 35 to 40 minutes regularly. But if one is not on a good road, it may well be that 5 miles on a dirt road will consume more time than the 20 miles of hard surface. However, if there’s a choice, it is far better to locate as near as possible to the town or city where one expects to work.
Therefore, as a guide, we will say locate not more than 10 or 12 miles from the place of employment. The home must be on a good road so a car (or a bus) can be used the year round. Get at least one acre of good soil and preferably a little more. If, for example as Robert J did, a man finds he can make $750 to $1,000 from an acre of strawberries, it means a substantial sum over the years to have land enough to raise a high-priced crop. Get reasonably good buildings so the family will be comfortable. Check the water supply carefully. For the home garden or for a commercial crop, irrigation is needed three years in four. Don’t buy in an isolated spot. Good neighbors make part of the joy of country living.
In the years ahead millions of people are going to move from crowded areas. Decentralization of population will be as important as decentralization of industry. On a part-time farm a family can enjoy the blessings of country living and continue in urban employment. Many will find it possible to earn a substantial sum on a part-time farm.