Low acreage livelihoods: important report re Small Farms
By Ben Brangwyn 13th April 2011
Small is Successful! Ground Breaking Report shows Big Role for Small Farms
This comes from Larch Maxey from Sustainable Blackawton – a village initiative in Devon. Larch is pioneering research into small acreage farms, and providing an excellent platform for people considering this option as a livelihood. If it’s viable now, then as the costs of fertilizers, pesticides and transport increase their impact on monoculture farming, it’ll become even more viable in the future. Big thanks to Larch for the work he does in this area.
A report from the Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC)  proves that small farms can provide highly successful land based livelihoods and provides a valuable tool for land based Transition Initiatives. The Report: ‘Small is Successful! Creating sustainable livelihoods on 10 acres or less’ profiles eight UK case study farms producing everything from traditional fruit and vegetables to Champagne Cider and shiitake mushrooms. It was produced to support the ELC’s development of 3 low impact eco-smallholdings on its first site in Mid-Devon, England and also as a free resource for anyone interested in setting up low acreage livelihoods. It can be downloaded for free from: http://www.ecologicalland.coop/projects-small-successful.
The report shows that smallholders’ ingenuity and commitment is the key to success, rather than acreage or fertility. Every livelihood featured in the report increased production and biodiversity whilst creating sustainable jobs. It warns that ‘Red Tape’ must be cut if these businesses are to flourish, however. These dynamic farms offer a beacon of hope, creating jobs, new entry to farming, affordable housing, quality produce and and demonstrating highly sustainable development. . They have an important part to play in our transition to a sustainable society, boosting rural economies and national food security and can form valuable components of local Transition Initiatives. It would be great to see this report used by any interested Transition Initiatives.
The report has been hugely successful. Whilst the original plan was only to publish electronically, demand for hard copies has been so strong that a first print run is now complete, with copies available from the ELC. In addition to featuring in many websites, newspapers, magazines and radio programmes, there has been massive support for the report from organisations in the field such as the Soil Association, Sustain and the Permaculture Association.
This success highlights the report’s value in showing planners that small scale developments deserve planning permission. Unlike most farms, those studied receive no subsidies. They are not asking for handouts, just a fair chance to prove themselves. The established understanding within planning and agricultural assessment has been that only large farms are viable. The eight case studies’ success on tiny pockets of marginal land disproves this and opens the door to such developments.
On the strength of the report, the ELC has been invited to contribute to international conferences and the All Party Parliamentary Working Group on Agroecology. The ELC also used the report in its submission on the National Planning Policy Framework, part of the on-going major reform of the planning system to make it more sustainable and people friendly. The ELC is using the report and these opportunities to help create planning policies which allow sustainable livelihoods wherever they are needed, rural or urban, throughout the UK.
Contact – for further info, hard copies or to discuss follow-on research, Zoe Wangler email@example.com 07963 955 338
The Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC) supports new entrants into farming by creating affordable, highly sustainable smallholdings. Established in 2007, the ELC is a multi-stakeholder co-operative For more information see www.ecologicalland.coop
The report was written by Dr. Larch Maxey, Rebecca Laughton, Oliver Rodker and Zoe Wangler.
 The report has highlighted the urgent need for a national inventory of sustainable agriculture to evaluate and learn from the best of what’s happening throughout the UK. To find out more about this follow-up research see http://bit.ly/dE44AR.
Larch Maxey is a Director of the ELC and Chair of Sustainable Blackawton a village initiative in the South Hams, Devon, and can be reached at Larch.firstname.lastname@example.org