Article Summary:  With the rise of technology in modern-day farming, small farms are fast becoming viable and profitable enterprises in rural and urban areas. There are many small farming methods with the potential to yield plentiful produce and financial returns, and here, we explore eight of the world's most popular and profitable types. From bee farming and dairy farming to growing microgreens, this article is a good first step when researching and deciding on your small farming journey or if you want to scale up your hobby farm and monetise your passion.

New technologies have provided farmers worldwide with many opportunities to build successful agricultural businesses. Even small farms are now deemed viable and profitable enterprises in rural and urban areas, and Australia is no different..  

Perhaps also pushed into the spotlight since the global pandemic due to the very human need to create self-sufficiency, even small spaces can be turned into flourishing and, in some cases, prosperous mini-farms. 

There are many small farming methods with the potential to yield plentiful produce and financial returns, and here, we explore eight of the world's most popular and profitable types. You may wish to consider bee farming, dairy farming, or growing microgreens, and this article is a good first step when researching and deciding on your small farming journey.

Let's start with small farm (and hobby farming) facts

How is a small farm defined? In Australia, a small farm must be between 50 and 100 acres in area. And a hobby farm is 50 acres or less. A small farm also brings in a revenue stream, whereas a hobby farm is for just that; a pleasurable pastime.

Did you know that over 60,000 hobby farms in Australia take up approximately 20% of all agricultural land nationally? 

Because small farming is where the profits are, here are eight of the most profitable types worldwide. Conversely, if you decide whether to commence hobby farming, this list is also helpful if you want to scale up and monetise your passion. 

Eight of the most profitable small farming types

  1. Tree Nursery 

A tree nursery can be a great investment and incredibly rewarding if executed correctly. Begin by starting small, with 10 to 20 seedlings planted on a small acre. With the right marketing strategy, you'll be able to sell saplings before they've fully matured. 

Grafting or budding can be a great way to ensure you get the same variety of fruit trees each time, or you can opt to buy pre-grown small trees for a small cost. Put some effort into setting up your tree nursery, and you'll be rewarded with a successful investment.

But be warned that in agroforestry, another term for tree farming, you'll need adequate knowledge and planning and regular tree maintenance. Failure to do this right and you may destroy natural vegetation and cropland, degrade soils and harm the ecosystem.

  1. Fish Farming 

An ideal business idea for investors, fish farms don't necessarily need a body of water; you can build fish ponds or invest in fish tanks. This is a highly scalable business; once you have the necessary knowledge required to raise fish, you can decide which species to grow. 

Popular freshwater fish to raise in Australia include barramundi, trout and catfish, which are relatively easy to farm and in high demand. Small-scale fish farms are the usual suppliers to their local supermarkets and restaurants. 

Your decision on which fish to raise will depend on your skill level, financial capacity, market demand, and the agro-climatic conditions of the area, such as soil types, rainfall, temperature, vegetation, and water availability.

  1. Dual Crop Farming 

AKA multiple cropping, this farming method can greatly maximise production and income on a small farm. It involves growing two or more crops in the same area through mixed cropping, which is growing two or more different types of crops in the same area, or intercropping, which is growing other crops nearby. 

This practice maximises resources such as soil, water, farming equipment and supplies. Additionally, it can provide farmers with a more consistent and higher income from their farms year-round and reduce the risk of total loss from natural disasters, drought, pests, and diseases.

Popular examples of dual-crop farming are grains with alternate seasons, like winter wheat and soybeans in autumn.

  1. Dairy Farming

A burgeoning $3 billion industry in Australia, dairy farming employs over 40,000 people across 5,800 registered dairy farms.

Farming a small number of cows on your land can provide you with milk and the opportunity to sell your stock, along with fresh bottled milk and cream. How many cows you need depends on available grazing land and pasture. Bear in mind a dairy cow needs 1.5 to 2.0 acres, including calves and juveniles.

You'll also need to consider appropriate milking equipment, the involvement of vets, and robust animal management programs to ensure their welfare and the hygiene of your production processes.

  1. Herb Gardening

Requiring smaller capital investment than the previous four farming types, herb gardening can be farmed in a small space with limited equipment. Seeds are also cheap, and herbs are always in high demand, with greengrocer's and farmer's markets popular places to sell.

It is wise, however, to ensure that what you grow matches your climate for optimum quality and yield and the locals' palates to ensure market demand.

  1. Bee Farming

Anything that requires pollination requires bees. And everything in the food chain involves pollination so the circle of life can continue. There will always be a market for bees, as without them, nothing would exist. 

Like herb farming, collecting fresh honey is a low-cost and popular way to profit by selling at farmer's markets or stores locally. 

Bee pollen is another source of food that is gaining popularity in nutrition circles for its supposed health benefits. But it requires the implementation of pollen traps, along with regulation safety gear, hives and crucially, vast amounts of bees. And the more bees, the more chances of being unable to contain colonies and swarms, so you must establish your bee farm properly and safely. 

A trained apiarist or your region's beekeeping society can advise, support you and help build your farm for purpose.

  1. Aquaponics 

A dual-farming system of keeping fish and plants, where plants feed off the fish's waste products, and in turn, the fish feed off the plants. This creates a water-based ecosystem rich in nutrients to support the growth of water-intensive crops like lettuce and tomatoes. With roots in 

Aztec farming, rice paddies in southeast Asia are an example of established aquaponic farming.

Modern aquaponics can be an incredibly rewarding type of farming if done right, perfect for keen home gardeners looking to sustain themselves by growing vegetation and, often, fish for consumption.

While environmentally friendly and a great way to conserve water through a 'closed-loop' system, it's not suitable for all crops, such as tubers and lupin grains. There are several major downsides, including

  • High set-up costs

  • High running costs of electricity, pumps and chemicals to keep the water at the correct temperature and levels 24/7.

  • If one part of the system fails, it all fails.

  • Difficult to scale up. It is expensive to move from hobby to commercial farming, with additional space, equipment, resources and workforce required to ensure its success.

  •  A required high level of technical experience. Creating a perfectly balanced ecosystem requires scientific knowledge and aquaponic expertise. Without it, the fish, the plants, or both, will not survive or be marketable. 

  1. Microgreens Farming 

Microgreens are early-stage vegetables or herbs harvested after sprouting through the soil. Packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals, popular microgreens to farm are typical culinary herbs like dill, plus leafy greens like chard and lettuce, and then Amaryllidaceae, like garlic, onions and leeks.

The great news about this farming option is that they can produce a large return in a short time using only a small amount of space. This is what makes farming microgreens a popular choice for farmers, especially those in urban and built-up areas.

However, while popular, it is important to note that there is high competition, and the exact financial potential is up for debate online. It pays to look into this when devising your farming strategy.

What you need to know before you begin your hobby farming project

Do any of these popular farming options sound good to you? Our advice is to do your research, whether online, through your social circles, or both. Understand your budget, land size, physical capability level, time available, and climate and soil conditions.

It's also a good idea to find hobby farming groups online to find out the information only experts will tell you, along with real-life considerations, before going down a certain hobby farming path.

Additionally, you should consider what you want to get out of your farming journey; is it purely for leisure? Or is it to eventually scale up and sell your product, giving you a revenue stream?

Whatever small farming idea you decide to embark on, make sure you're also passionate about it! Small-scale farming should be an outlet for you, bringing a sense of well-being, accomplishment and joy, besides an additional revenue stream. 

Lastly, make sure you read up on all the latest farming news, ideas and innovations in our popular and informative blog and save it to your Bookmarks or Favourites tab!

Until we meet again, Happy Farming!

- The Dedicated Team of, 2023-01-24