Prepping for a smallholding venture

Handy tips to get started

Story Highlights

  • Budgets
  • Location
  • Networking
  • Planning
  • Fencing
  • Housing
It’s all in the preparation’ is a well used phrase, much favoured by do it yourself enthusiasts explaining the slow pace of their endeavours to frustrated partners.

But when it comes to obtaining a smallholding, whether leased or purchased, preparation and research is one of the main keys to success.

If you are completely new to what you suppose is the good life, there are a number of courses that you can attend. These will teach you how to manage both land, machinery and livestock, and will alert you to the pleasures and pitfalls of your ambitions.


Deciding on a budget is obviously tremendously important, and you have to take into consideration not only the amount required to secure the land but to cover livestock, vets’ bills, tools, fencing and great deal more if your venture is going to be viable.

“Explore whether you qualify for any of the government grants that are available to smallholders”


There are several available that are aimed at encouraging young farmers and helping to develop existing smallholdings.

If you are taking out a mortgage on the land, it’s clearly an advantage if one person has a steady job at least at the start of the venture, especially if this can be combined without too much difficulty along with your new commitments.


You’ve probably decided on roughly where you would like the smallholding to be and, if this involves moving to somewhere a long way off, an important task is to make yourself completely familiar with your preferred location.

Check whether the landscape and weather is really suitable to your anticipated activities, clearly some areas of the country are more amenable to arable or livestock farming.

Prepping for a #Smallholding Venture @Gardensite | Click To Tweet

Try and make contact with locals who actually know the lie of the land, what works and what doesn’t, and whether there are any particular problems such as flooding.

Equally important if you are thinking of selling produce locally, is are there any farmers’ market or other suitable outlets nearby?


Networking with local people as well as farmers is incredibly useful to gain contacts and can be the source of a huge amount of valuable information about different aspects of the locality.

If you make the acquaintance of any other small holders they may let you have some hands-on experience and valuable advice.


Local estate agents may be useful in locating properties with suitable adjacent land but there are also niche websites and forums where you’ll find smallholdings for sale or to let.

Initially planning permission is only needed if a change of use of the land is required. Cultivating crops and caring for livestock will not need special permission but permanent structures including a mobile home will, along with many other developments that you may think inconsequential.

So approach the local planning department to learn whether they can foresee any difficulties before planning or starting construction. They can also advise on other developments in the area that might affect the smallholding before you take on the smallholding.

There is much other red tape that needs to be addressed. A new smallholding needs to be registered with DEFRA and if you’re keeping livestock there, then there’s lots of other regulations that you have to keep the right side of regarding husbandry, such as housing, stocking density, record keeping and transportation.


Fencing naturally must be put in place before you introduce livestock. This is an important consideration as you don’t want your assets scattered around the countryside, this will upset the neighbours and may have legal implications if any damage is caused or accidents occur.

“You must accurately establish the perimeters to your smallholding” Martin Loach

First of all you must accurately establish the perimeters to your smallholding, as you won’t want to create unnecessary boundary disputes with your new neighbours. Depending on what animals you’re keeping, a wire mesh is adequate perhaps in conjunction with one or two taut strands of plain or barbed wire above the mesh.

The wire should be attached with galvanised staples to posts that are straight and with a pointed end, these are widely available and, when pressure treated, will last about 10 -15 years in the ground.


Chicken wire will keep the fowl in check but will not deter predators. Hen houses are essential and can be bought ready made, built from new or recycled materials or can be converted from existing buildings.

If you are buying a ready made coop you need to be certain that it can be cleaned easily without taking it apart, is light enough to move around but strong enough to be secure in bad weather. The interior needs to be draught free and dry, and a run can be attached to the house or separate.

The design of a traditional apex hen house has been proven over time and a wire floor gives protection against predators. Larger coops made from pressure treated timber will have nesting boxes, integral perches and a slide out floor for cleaning.

No smallholder envisages making a fortune, but self-sufficiency and a satisfying life style are realistic prospects, and your hard work will produce faster results if you get the basics right, remember – it’s all in the preparation.

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