Chris Walsh, farming insurance specialist at NFU Mutual, says, "It’s great to see that so many people yearn for a simple country lifestyle in our fast-paced 21st century world. With the New Year bringing fresh opportunities to pursue dreams and make resolutions, the lure of the countryside seems to be front of mind for many".
For most that want to become smallholders, some of the main reasons for the change are trying to live more sustainably or become self-sufficient (58%), while 54% say it is for the healthy lifestyle and 50% say it would be a great way to spend retirement living in the countryside.
Some others insist that a smallholder lifestyle would be a better way of life for the family (39%), while others see it as returning to their countryside roots (27%) and 16% see it as being able to combine their profession with running a smallholding.
Author of Accidental Smallholder blog, Rosemary Champion, who runs a smallholding with her husband in Scotland has some advice for those considering taking the plunge. She says: "A smallholding is the dream for many, including myself – being self-sufficient with a few acres in the countryside and looking out at a beautiful view. But even if you aren’t planning to try to make a living from your smallholding, doing a bit of business planning is a sound investment of time".
Champion continues: "Consult the family and any like-minded friends. Having responsibility for the stewardship of land is a big commitment in terms of time and money, so it should not be entered into lightly".
It is easier said than done as 44% say they are unable to make their dreams come true because of the high costs involved in buying and setting up a smallholding.
Realising that there are many things to consider when running their own piece of land, respondents say they would be deterred from that lifestyle because of –
1. Workload (22%) 2. Pressure dividing time between smallholding and family life (21%) 3. Having to learn new skills (20%).
These warnings have been confirmed by existing smallholders, with only 24% reporting that their land generates an income.
"While the reality of smallholding lives up to the dream for many people, working the land has many challenges – particularly if you have no previous farming experience," warns Walsh.
NFU Mutual estimates there are approximately 45,000 smallholdings across the UK, ranging in size up to around 12 acres.
NFU Mutual states that smallholders with up to five acres tend to focus on growing fruit and vegetables, rearing poultry, keeping a horse or two and maintaining a piece of woodland.
Those with five to ten acres tend to have more grassland for grazing livestock, while smallholdings of 11 acres plus often run flocks of sheep, a few cattle, or a large vegetable growing area including polytunnels.