Managing a smallholding can be the realisation of a lifelong dream and open the door to a more sustainable way of life.
With all the hard work that goes into it, in addition to the costs of starting a small farming business, generating a bit of income from your smallholding can be a great way to offset any outlays and make the most of your plot.
We look at five ways to help your smallholding pay its way:
- If you want to sell, try to advertiseLocally-farmed produce is in increasing demand by consumers, which means that retail and hospitality businesses in your area may well be looking to source produce from the local community. Although it seems obvious, if you haven’t thought about selling from your smallholding yet, it can be really easy to take the selling potential for granted.
If you do want to sell surplus, think about promoting your business if even on a small, local scale. You could create a Facebook page, and get friends and neighbours to ‘like’ it. Then you can update them regularly when you have stock to sell, or tell them what’s new on your smallholding, or even offer some deals.
- High value itemsIf there’s one activity that you are having particular success with, or simply enjoy doing the most, look out for high value opportunities in that area.
For example, if you love rearing chickens, maybe consider rearing quails as well. Their eggs command a higher price than hens’ eggs, and could add interesting variety to your offering.
If plants are more your forte, do some research on what is difficult to source locally or what commands a higher value. Rare plants, edible flowers and unusual vegetable varieties are a great place to start.
- Adding valueWhether curing meats, making chutneys or knitting with your wool, a few extra steps can turn basic produce into high value ‘hand crafted’ items.
Another advantage can be an extended shelf life. While items like soft fruits and berries can be great sellers, they are also quick to spoil. Preserving such items can give you a healthy stock of produce to use or sell throughout the year.
- Unused spacesInstead of using that garage or outbuilding as a dumping ground, have you considered renting it out?
If converting it into accommodation or office space is too much of a project, there’s still plenty of other opportunities. A local tradesman or hobbyist might be in need of a workshop, or someone might simply be looking to store some furniture and boxes.
- Complementary activitiesLots of the activities on your smallholding can help boost the earning potential of others. One of the best things about a smallholding is its ability to become its own circular economy.
If you keep animals or have a lot of vegetable waste, then turn it into manure and compost. Not only will it feed your soil for free, but others will pay good money for anything you don’t use.
If you are running a B&B, then try and incorporate anything you produce into that experience, like Devon-based smallholders Matt and Lisa. Guests may be prepared to pay higher prices if, for example, their stay includes a meal made from items sourced directly on site.