BBEMA is coordinating a two-year project to help the owners of small farms, or hobby farms, take advantage of environmental programs and government funding.
The problem, said the project’s co-ordinator, is that many hobby farm owners don’t know the options available to them.
“A lot of the programs that are out there for farmers, they don’t exclude people that have small hobby farms, but a lot of these people think they don’t qualify to apply for government (programs) because they don’t consider themselves full-fledged farmers,” said BBEMA’s Sam Doucette.
An operation is technically considered to be a hobby farm if it accounts for less than 50 per cent of the owner’s income. Typically the farms are around 10 to 20 acres, or a portion of a larger piece of land could be rented to another farmer or forested.
“They could have two horses or 10 in their backyard,” said Doucette. “We’ve been focusing on properties that are around the 10-acre mark… because they have their own unique issues with land management, manure storage, that kind of thing. A lot of them (farm) in their past time, so they don’t really think of all these funding programs.”
Through the small farm environmental partnership project, owners who register will have a free and confidential environmental farm plan completed by the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture. The federation will then offer suggestions to improve aspects of the farm, while BBEMA can also provide enhancement services for hedgerows, plants and shrubs, wildlife habitats, water testing and pasture management.
Although the organization doesn’t have an official tally, BBEMA is aware of a number of hobby farms in the immediate area simply from driving around and viewing the scope of the operation.
A Google search for “hobby farms on P.E.I.,” reveals several real estate advertisements that are geared toward potential buyers from large cities.
To BBEMA, that indicates many who purchase the properties may not have a background in farming.
“You could see how people would definitely get pulled in… and think that it’s just as easy as buying a farm, and it all comes together,” said Doucette. “But they don’t realize all these little things that can contribute to making it better, or that they’re actually inadvertently damaging the environment and they don’t even know it.”
BBEMA hopes to hear from those who have, or think they may have a hobby farm, by this winter to start discussing the project with the owners.
More information on who should join, and how to join, can be found on BBEMA’s website: bbemadotnet.wordpress.com, or by contacting BBEMA.