From cross-breeding hazelnuts to an uptick in women farmers, hobby farms remain popular among those who are interested in sustainable agriculture and have a desire to engage with the local community.
Here are a few of the latest trends and developments across the hobby farm world.
Spearheading A Hazelnut Revolution
Hazelnuts have long been on the horizon for many farmers in the northern Midwest who are looking for a replacement to the soybean. Wild hazelnut bushes that are native to states like Minnesota and Wisconsin have deep roots that can help stem the tide of erosion and prevent fertilizer runoff.
Demand for hazelnuts across the globe is estimated to double in the next decade.
Right now, almost every hazelnut is currently grown in Turkey because the nuts have an appealing flavor and a large size. These plants are not able to survive in cold winters and easily succumb to a North American fungal disease.
However, American hazelnut bushes are able to survive winter and the blight.
Hobby farmers have been working for decades on efforts to try and crossbreed the North American and European hazelnut bush.
The newly-minted Million Hazelnut Campaign is endeavoring to raise money and awareness for crossbreeding efforts, primarily in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Smaller hobby farmers are continuing to work on growing hazelnuts so researchers can see if specific hybrid plants are improvements over previous generations.
Current efforts include persuading farmers to plan at least one million hybrid hazelnut bushes in the upper Midwest. The endeavor is designed to help researchers since they have more plants to work with and give farmers an opportunity to add another income stream to their operations.
Agricultural Census Reveals Uptick In Hobby Farms
In mid-April, the United States Department of Agriculture released the 2017 agricultural census. Carried out every five years, the census is designed to reveal trends within the industry and help guide policy decisions.
The census revealed a large uptick in the number of smaller farms in the country, especially in Wisconsin. There was a 29% increase in farms smaller than ten acres in the state. Many were classified as hobby farms. While hobby farms rose in number, a large number of medium-sized farms (50-500 acres) disappeared between 2012 and 2017.
The USDA decision to be more inclusive when it came to farmer demographics also revealed some noticeable changes, including a rise in the number of women producers. They increased by 16% across Wisconsin based on the latest census.
Some believe the number of women farmers, including within hobby farms, has increased because of different census standards by the USDA.
This included the ability for more producers to be labeled per farm and allowed farms to list more than one person as the chief decision-maker.
Hobby Farms Continue To Grow In Popularity
Hobby farming continues to grow in popularity as more people grow interested in their benefits. The number of smaller farms is expected to expand in the coming years even as larger operations close their doors.