The Associated Press reported last week that more Americans are starting small-scale and hobby farms. Farms under 50 acres grew 15 percent last year according to the Department of Agriculture's census, and farms under 10 acres grew nearly 30 percent!
That said, there's a bunch of information missing here. Farmers weren't asked if they make money, nor were they asked why they farm. The article conflates "hobby" and "small" farm - and while those can overlap, to me, a person who sells produce at the farmers market is crossing the line from hobby farmer to, well - farmer. In business. That's the distinction I draw on this site as well: homesteading is the process of becoming self-sufficient (of course there are varying degrees of self-sufficiency) and may involve bartering goods and/or services but generally doesn't involve sales; hobby farming is farming purely for pleasure without a goal of earning money or becoming self-sufficient; and small farming means farming on a small scale for income or profit.
There's a lot of overlap there, though. I still consider us primarily homesteaders, but we sell our eggs as well as barter them. I have a name for our farm and it has "farm" in it. Our goal is self-sufficiency but we're not always zooming right along the path; sometimes we take a few steps backward, even.
How do you define these words? What distinctions do you draw? What do you wonder about the US Department of Ag's census numbers? What new questions should they ask farmers next time? Please share, here or in the Small Farm Forums.