What are the realities of smallholder life?
There are many books around extolling the brilliance of smallholder or country living. You can read up on how to feed a whole family all year round on one acre of land. You can read how to produce amazing vegetables. It’s called “the good life” and so the natural instinct is to assume that if you become a smallholder, life will instantly be good. In practice, the realities of smallholder life are such that things are not that simple!
It’s an expensive lifestyle
While you can create a vegetable area fairly cheaply, it’s a different story with livestock. Hens, for example, would seem quite cheap. However, buy a wooden hen house and you will likely be burning it within a year to get rid of the mites. Plastic coops are excellent but don’t come cheap. That first egg may be delicious, but it can be expensive.
Livestock are both more expensive to buy and to handle. Livestock need care including annual vaccinations. You need a handling area and this in turn means purchasing expensive equipment. They also need winter feeders, winter shelters, winter feed, feed stores and so on. It can be all too easy to spend, spend and spend.
On top of that, fees (for example vet) can add up.
Most smallholders have part-time jobs.
It’s hard to make money
Whatever your goals, don’t plan on earning a living. A more realistic goal is to get the animals paying for themselves and perhaps a bit more.
You can save money producing your own. For example, we produce all our own wine and that saves us a small fortune.
If you want to make a profit, you will need careful planning and a ruthless approach that you may find hard to put into practice.
It’s hard work
You can say goodbye to lie-ins – you will be up every day, early, to feed and check on your animals. If you plan to breed, you will have weeks of interrupted nights.
Setting up your smallholding may require work such as fencing, building sheds, repairing outbuildings, building handling pens, setting up water systems and so on. These are rewarding activities, but you need to make sure you have the time to do them.
Things go wrong and you can find yourself caring for a wounded animal for hours out in the sleet and snow.
It sounds grim, but in reality it is not that bad so long as you can stay positive.
Say goodbye to holidays
It’s not about the money, it can just be hard to plan time away. We smallholders can get very close to our animals and it can be hard to head off leaving them behind. We have found a farm sitter we trust, so it is possible.
However, it’s all too easy to never get around to planning a holiday.
It’s worth it
Despite the difficulties, smallholders do say that they are happy with their chosen lifestyle. We certainly are. There have been some desperate lows but there have also been spectacular highs.
The key is thinking and planning ahead and, sometimes, keeping it simple.
This Smallholding Life
In our book “This Smallholding life”, Adrian draws from personal experience to take you through the highs and lows of life on a smallholding, and how small or quick decisions can have a major impact on your life. From the depths of losing a cherished animal to the highs of making your first sale, this book takes you on a fascinating journey. A real insight into smallholding life.
It describes many of the challenges you will face – physical, mental and financial. This book offers guidance on what is really involved and what you need to think about when moving into this life. It will inspire you to take the plunge, but with your eyes open.
In this book, Adrian will show you how a bit of planning can go a long way, how the key to this life is finding the right balance for you and how this smallholding life is a life worth living.