So when I read this story, the end of the farming game for Rosie Boycott, I had cause, yet again, to stop and think - is it possible to farm on a small scale and not subsidise it from other earnings?
Possibly, possibly, but only with some major caveats:
- Small scale will never cover the mortgage payments, so live in a caravan, a hovel, a cave, under the stars, or buy outright with the moolah from some previous existence.
- It will never pay you a wage, but you may be lucky enough to live in a way and in a place that minimises expenditure (just don't go wearing any holes in your jeans, and don't forget you can't pay your Council Tax in beans or the water bill with eggs).
- It will certainly never allow you to pay someone else a wage (I think that's where Rosie went wrong), and because of this...
- ...it's a full-time thing; even when you're doing something else to earn some cash, farm necessities must be dealt with - life and death and welfare issues can't wait until it's more convenient - the farm dictates, not the diary.
- Some daft bugger desperate for short term cash will try to undercut you all the time - stick to your guns and prices or you really will be heading for doom and gloom, subsidising other people's lifestyles and choking on it.
- It's a business, not a flaky hobby. That might mean registering for VAT, producing accounts, keeping records, analysing the finances, planning for the future, investing lots of time and appropriate amounts of money in the right places.
- There is a lot of capital outlay, even if, like us, you make a huge amount of stuff yourself. You need equipment, tools (from a sledge hammer to a welder), almost certainly a tractor, animal handling facilities, animal shelter(s), the list goes on.
- Work out how much stock you and your land can handle - all kinds of grief comes from overstocking (disease, exhausted fields, huge feed bills to make up for the lack of grass), and other grief comes from having more on your plate than you can cope with.
- Don't fanny around being precious about farming subsidies - if you're eligible, get those papers in - you can't afford not to.
- If you want a hobby rather than a business, smallholding is great, but if that's your limit, stick to producing enough for yourself and one or two friends...and leave it at that.
But the biggest caveat of all is that you have to see the point of it, because you will be spending 24 hours a day at it.