Running a smallholding - how to get started

Many of us will have dreamed of a simple life in the country, eating fresh veg from the garden and morning-fresh eggs from our own chickens.

Running a smallholding

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But living the good life is no walk in the park - it can take a great deal of thought, planning and hard work.

If you are desperate to escape city living, however, here are some beginner's tips on running your own smallholding.

A sizeable nest egg is advisable if you are planning on going self-sufficient. Building up a successful smallholding takes time and, aside from the cost of the house and the land, you will need to budget for tools, machinery, and vet bills and housing if you plan on keeping livestock.

The right property
Unless you are already blessed with the acreage to set up your self-sufficient lifestyle, owning a smallholding will likely mean moving to the country. Prices obviously vary greatly depending on where you plan on buying but if you have an idea of where you'd like to look, do plenty of research on the area.

For instance, if you are considering selling homemade farm produce, be sure to check out local farmer's markets where you might sell your wares.

The climate and landscape may determine the best type of agriculture - a hilly region, for instance, may suit a flock of sheep but is not so conducive to arable crops. Ensure you are aware of potential flood risks and climate so that you don't waste your hard-earned money on an unsuitable plan.

It's a good idea to see how local farmers use their land as this will give you a good idea of what works where.

Once you've bought your perfect property, take some time to make the house itself comfortable and problem-free. If things don't work out, you'll at least have a decent home to lure potential buyers.

If your land has previously been used as a smallholding, it will likely be registered and have a small holding number. If not, you'll need to register yourself - the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) should be able to help.

There are also strict rules for those keeping livestock, whether a flock of sheep or one cow, and anyone planning on keeping livestock should check with Defra with regards to animal identification legislation and restrictions on moving your livestock.

Know your stuff
You've got your property and you've got a plan but trying to do everything at once will likely end in disaster.

Take time to learn - there are a host of useful courses for smallholders available, from animal husbandry to machinery repairs, and with the right skills you will be better able to create a self-sufficient life for your family.

Networking is also a great idea. By chatting to other smallholders (either in your area or via an online forum) you can gain valuable contacts, advice and tips. Those nearby may be able to provide you with advice on local vets, feed merchants and offer valuable tips on making your smallholding a success.

All for one
A self-sufficient lifestyle might be the dream but it requires hard work and long hours. Be sure that every member of the family motivated and committed to making it work.

Your new life in the country will take time to grow and it may be some time before you see the fruits of your labour so be prepared to eat into your savings if you have given up your job to live the good life.

With time, knowledge and good ol' hard graft though, you really can live the dream.

Have you set up a smallholding? Leave a comment below...
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