Having a smallholding and living off the land sustainably may be a lifelong dream for many but the reality is often much harsher than anticipated. It’s a lot of hard work for sure, but will you be able to generate enough income to provide a good standard of living for yourself and your family?
With a small farming business, it’s not just about growing food and having livestock – every little count. Here, we look at four useful additional income streams that could help support you to achieve resilience as a smallholder through the seasons.
1. Make the most out of any unused space
Let’s start with your physical assets – your buildings and the land they stand on. If you have any spare outbuildings, barns or garages, why not consider renting them out? Storage space for furniture, cars or box storage is always in great demand. Why not connect with the local business community to see if any craftsmen are looking for workshop space?
Perhaps an area of land could be sectioned off for use as a campsite? With a bit more investment, think about converting buildings to holiday accommodation or even office space.
Another way to make your agricultural premises work harder is by installing solar panels, either on a south-facing roof or at ground level. Generating your own electricity will not only cut your utility bills but also allows you to sell a portion of your solar power back to the grid, providing you with a consistent income stream and a safety net in uncertain times.
The best bit is that apart from some admin work, getting more out of your existing assets doesn’t require any more input from you – it virtually runs itself.
2. Diversify the sales channels for your produce
High-quality local farm produce is in growing demand, so it’s worth thinking about selling your surplus as well as added-value items, such as
- Milk, eggs and dairy products
- Organic fruit and vegetables
- Home-reared poultry, pork or beef
- Homemade chutneys and preserves
- Freshly pressed fruit juice and cider
- Home baked bread
- Hand-knitted scarves, gloves and jumpers
You can sell direct to the public – from your own farm shop on the premises or at local farmers’ markets. Consider setting up a Facebook page or website and offer weekly subscription services with free local delivery.
And it’s not just private customers that will be looking to source local produce. Retail and hospitality businesses in your area will also be interested in good local supply chains. You could also try specialising in the production of high-value items such as quails, unusual vegetable varieties or edible flowers that command a higher sale price.
Be creative and flexible in your approach to the type of products you can sell. Do you have woodland to manage? Cut and sell firewood. Carpentry skills? Make rustic handmade furniture. If you keep animals or have a lot of vegetable waste, why not sell manure and compost? Grow flowers and develop floristry skills, supplying restaurants and weddings or making Christmas wreaths. The possibilities for entrepreneurial smallholders to broaden their commercial offerings are truly vast.
3. Share your unique knowledge with others
You may find it hard to believe but your journey as a smallholder is a huge inspiration to others who secretly wish they could do what you’ve done. Why not start a blog to record your journey, sharing your thoughts and insights with like-minded others? If you can monetise your blogging activity, there’s no limit to what that could mean financially. You could also write and self-publish your story in a book.
On a more hands-on level, consider sharing your practical skillset with other people. Don’t underestimate the appeal of doing what you do as a smallholder. People love to learn, so why not teach them all you know?
From foraging to cheese making, apple pressing, wood carving or forest bathing, there must be countless topics that you could build learning events around. Get into the habit of recording regular YouTube tutorials to share your knowledge – here are a few ideas to get you started.
As for regular online classes, the world is now accustomed to Zoom and similar platforms, so use the technology to your advantage to promote your business and share your sustainable way of life.
4. Create experiences to turn your smallholding into a destination
People love the idea of farming and smallholding; give them a good reason to visit and they will come. PYO farms are popular for adults and children alike. Strawberries are always a winner but other fruit and vegetables can also work well. And don’t forget the magic pull of a pumpkin patch at Halloween!
Have a farm shop with an on-site tea room for your visitors to rest and sample some wholesome home-produced fare. Maybe you could add a retail area for other rustic items such as upcycled furniture, a garden centre, a pet shop or local arts & crafts.
Finally, take your teaching offline and reconnect with your students in person. Regular classes and workshops, even weekend courses or retreats are an enjoyable and potentially lucrative way to share your rural skills and passions with the wider world.