Home Page
   Articles
       links
About Us    
Traders        
Recipes            
Latest Articles
How Much Land to Make a Living?
Page 1, 2  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Downsizer Forum Index -> Small Business Questions, Ideas and Advice
Author 
 Message
funky_monks



Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 09 10:03 pm    Post subject: How Much Land to Make a Living?  Reply with quote    

Hi all.

I have been looking at bidding on the lease of a smallholding. All in all it is 30acres of good grazing + cattle shed.

The present owners have renovated the property and currently run cows and sheep on the land.

I was thinking more along the lines of pigs and chickens initially, as beef represent too long term an investment, and it really seems very small for a sheep concern, and also I don't fancy dealing with EID.

Allowing for selling all the meat/eggs retail and adding value (I currently run a smokery as part of my present job), do you think that it is utterly unrealistic to expect to make a living with so little land?

Does anyone else make their living from their holding? How big is it?

Nick



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 34031
Location: Hereford
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 09 10:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

It'll depend, for sure, on the costs you have. What's the lease going to run you to?

But, 30 acres is more than some farms I would imagine.

Don't discount beef. May not be perfect, but some of the guys round here buy and raise over the summer, turning a profit for just watching them graze.

funky_monks



Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 09 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Nick wrote:
It'll depend, for sure, on the costs you have. What's the lease going to run you to?

But, 30 acres is more than some farms I would imagine.

Don't discount beef. May not be perfect, but some of the guys round here buy and raise over the summer, turning a profit for just watching them graze.


I dunno yet, the lease will be put out to tender, so I'll bid.

I hadn't thought of just finishing beef, might be an idea. Buy some store cattle and just grow em on. Hmmmm.

I really just wanted to know if its a crazy notion that one might make his living from such a small amount of land before I bankrupt my family. I have relatives and freinds involved in 'traditional' (ie all animals sold at market) farming and they have ummed and ahhed considerably. The general consensus is that I would be better off with at least 70 acres, but none of them sell their meat retail and find this concept quite difficult to get their heads round.

TheGrange



Joined: 12 Apr 2009
Posts: 874

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 09 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

if you have an adequate market place for the finished meat then eventually 30 acres could make you a living but, in the short to medium term you'll need an unrelated income to help out IMO

Nick



Joined: 02 Nov 2004
Posts: 34031
Location: Hereford
PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 09 10:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Ask about. Certainly people make enough to live on from less on here. Would/could/should you be happy with the level of income? No idea what you and yours would accept, and no idea what those on here have, in many cases.

One problem many traditional farmers encounter is the same as you've seen. All their stock simply goes to auction. They could be getting much more money by cutting out some of the middle men, but that takes time, confidence, investment, knowledge etc etc. If you're able to turn a 100kg pig into finest chorizo, or salami, and sell it for 1.99 for 5 slices like Sainsbury's do, you clearly don't need many pigs, or land, to earn a decent living.

So, 30 acres is tons. If you do the right things. What can you do, to retain the value, with minimal external cost? You mentioned a smoking business. Can you use that, so instead of chickens, you've got smoked chickens? Much rarer, much more value.

Do you know Over Farm, just outside Gloucester? Small place with a fantastic farm shop. They concentrate on great food, and list food miles on everything, even counting in yards fo rtheir own stuff. Be a good outlet for you if you get that far. They have a butchers, but no charcuterie/smoked stuff, afaik.

Mary-Jane



Joined: 13 Jan 2005
Posts: 18397
Location: The Fishing Strumpet is from Ceredigion in West Wales
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 09 6:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

It depend on what you class a s a *living*. A good starting point is working out how much you would need to earn in a job to be able to survive without starving and having all the utiities cut off. Then work backwards from there.

It's notoriously difficult to earn a living from the land if you're starting from scratch because of all the set up costs.

resistance is fertile



Joined: 24 Oct 2008
Posts: 1534
Location: The heart of North Devon
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 09 7:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

When we started our 'experiment' we had nought (literally) and the whole basis was to see if the farm could earn it's keep by ensuring that the activities we carried out here earnt what was required to develop the business plan.

Our theory was that this would ensure a sustainable business model and one that would then be relevant to others. We took no grants or subsidies or bank money either to ensure we stand up within the market.

That was the theory! in practice its meant development is often slower than we would like, its so easy to want to do too much, too soon. Having sasid that we have actually found the pace of development to be quite revealing. It allows you to see the impact of changes that you are making gradually and refine things as you go.

On a financial level it has meant everything has been 'challenging' many is the time Carrie was ready to pack up and leave me to it (quite understandably), but this too has been so good for us in many ways. Learning what you can perfectly well do without and how rewarding and satisfying simpler ways, than perhaps we had been used to, could be.

It has also meant that we have had to be quite flexible about income sources and not having all eggs in too few baskets, but that was always part of the plan too. The farm enterprises, based religously on low or on site input provision, built up and have turned a profit (albeit modest to start) every year. Systems designed or trialled on the farm have been marketed and loads of consultancy work on built, husbandry and labour sytstems has also been done. We see this as just as valuable as other 'farm derived' income and it has led on to great work with some fascinating partners. It has also certainly helped push forward some of the infrastructure stuff.

An open and cooperative approach to working with others is good too. We have reached deals with folks to do things with or for us that have some mutual benefit. So whilst little or no cash might change hands important works can be got on with and others can gain a living out of it too.

I dont think it how much land you have so much as what ideas you have, can you seriously market them and do you mind large ammounts of hard work, whatever the weather, and whatever you do work on limiting costs first. Dont look at some potential margin as a kitty to take costs out of, look at how you could achieve your inputs through labour and imaginative solutions rather than cash, that way your margins will be yours and not reliant on the price of oil/corn etc.

Whilst in one sense I wouldnt recommend throwing it all in and making yourself homeless and totally reliant on finding a living off the land, in another sense I cant recommend it enough

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 09 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

How long is a piece of string?

It really does depend upon what you are going to do with it... In reality you can a fortune from a fraction of an acre, in central London; may seem a daft example, but not really, it just depends what else you plan to invest in it (buildings, machinery, stock etc.). It will also depend how good you are at business & all that relates to your field (excuse the pun). And of course, what do you call a 'living'? Work out how much a living is to you & work back from there.

A lot of people are struggling to make a living on ten times that area, that are struggling to make a living from farming & some that make a living on three (obviously more towards other enterprises such as market gardening and tourism).

Joel Salatin sets it all out well in You Can Farm where his overriding message is that you'll never make a living if you don't do something. Planning is important, but it has to be progressive planning & experience counts for a lot.

Whatever you decide, good luck!

funky_monks



Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 09 3:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks for the replies....

I have a fair bit of start-up capital, and I know the sort of things I can do from the off. As the bulk of our trade in my current job is retail and through farmers' markets, I kind of know where I am headed.

I am wondering how on earth to tender for the lease though. As the property has an ag tie and is, essentially a farm, then I dont see how it could be offered for lease in any other way under the ag. holdings act.

This means that the rent can only be what the business is able to support and you have far more rights than under a landlord and tennant act lease. I have spoken to the landlord, and they farm next door. They were advised to lease it as a cottage + field as a 'pony' type property. As they have stubbornly refused to do this, I guess this must mean that they are more interested in someone coming to farm than making lots of money, which is good for me.

I have been making a mental list of things I would need to buy, and its starting to blow my mind a bit.

Still, If my boss manages to make a living for himself and me and one other part time staff doing a very similar thing, then one would hope that the business model is transferrable.

I really am erring on the side of doing this. Scary.

funky_monks



Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 09 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Mary-Jane wrote:
It depend on what you class a s a *living*. A good starting point is working out how much you would need to earn in a job to be able to survive without starving and having all the utiities cut off. Then work backwards from there.

It's notoriously difficult to earn a living from the land if you're starting from scratch because of all the set up costs.


Strangely, I'm the kind of anal retentive who already knows his household I & E on a month to month basis. I worked for a time in business baking (it was one of those "I'll do this until something better comes along" jobs) and it taught me to keep an eye on the balance sheet.

I class a 'living' as being able to pay the bills, not having my wife and daughter starve and saving a couple of quid here and there for them to live on when I die of overwork.

Rob R



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 31902
Location: York
PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 09 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

funky_monks wrote:
I class a 'living' as being able to pay the bills, not having my wife and daughter starve and saving a couple of quid here and there for them to live on when I die of overwork.


Well, I have no idea how much in bills you may have, but 30 acres is plenty to grow all your own food.

twoscoops



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 1924
Location: Warwickshire
PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 09 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Adding value could be key to what you do, and there are plenty of people in your area who would buy your products if you took them to farmers markets. There are speciality food shops in the Cotswolds (I own one, very close to your farm) but retailers need margin and if you have a short shelf life they need more margin!

There is a farmer down the road from you who is starting to sell her beef and pork to the trade. I sell a bit for her but having it in the shops is marketing, and having it on pub and restaurant menus is money. I supply a few pubs with cheese and the chefs get damn horny when I talk about local produce, so you've got a great opportunity, but if marketing isn't your thing then you will need some help.

funky_monks



Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 14

PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 09 10:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

twoscoops wrote:
Adding value could be key to what you do, and there are plenty of people in your area who would buy your products if you took them to farmers markets. There are speciality food shops in the Cotswolds (I own one, very close to your farm) but retailers need margin and if you have a short shelf life they need more margin!


Aye, the reason we don't really supply delis and farm shops is that we can sell almost all our produce retail - the majority of our wholesale is to restaurants, cos they add value by cooking, so they will pay retail -10%.

And I think this might be the key to exporting the business model - retail all the way, unless I start producing in sufficient volume not to have to.

The place I'm looking at isn't in the Cotswolds though, I couldn't afford to do anything for myself round here.

You've all been lots of help, the more I'm quizzed on what I'm going to do, the more I realise I might actually be capable of doing it.

Watch this space.....

wellington womble



Joined: 08 Nov 2004
Posts: 14971
Location: East Midlands
PostPosted: Sun Jun 14, 09 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

What Mary Jane says. And Twoscoops. Making a product is easy. Getting it out there and persuading people give you money for it is the hardest part of the job by far. And the most time consuming.

Lorrainelovesplants



Joined: 13 Oct 2006
Posts: 6514
Location: Dordogne
PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 09 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I would get someone legal to check the lease arrangement too. You wouldnt want to commit to financial upheaval and outlay and then find they can change the arrangements on you....
Probably not going to happen, but has occured in the past.

Good luck!

Post new topic   Reply to topic    Downsizer Forum Index -> Small Business Questions, Ideas and Advice All times are GMT
Page 1, 2  Next
Page 1 of 2
View Latest Posts View Latest Posts

 

Archive
Powered by php-BB © 2001, 2005 php-BB Group
Style by marsjupiter.com, released under GNU (GNU/GPL) license.
Copyright 2004 marsjupiter.com