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Author Topic: Advice Needed  (Read 4591 times)


  • Joined Jan 2015
Advice Needed
« on: March 10, 2015, 03:42:52 pm »
       Just wanted to ask some advice. I am really keen to get into starting a smallholding ideally also having some Alpacas. The first and greatest barrier is finances. I am a 35 year old guy with no savings and I don't own any property (Ex Forces) . This probably sounds crazy but are there any government grants or help for doing something like this ? I also had another crazy idea that maybe a derelict farm out there thats not being used could be put to good use if someone (ie me) is willing to farm it. Putting the work in isnt an issue its just trying to get it of the ground that im finding difficult. Iv been looking around and everything is super expensive hopefully one of you experienced smallholders might have some tips, many thanks.



  • Joined Feb 2015
  • Anglezarke, Lancashire
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2015, 07:01:57 pm »
Hello Mike,
Im sorry but I don't think there are any government grants available for you,  and derelict farms? Well, its a very tall order isn't it? In my area land is going for 15,000 an acre so "derelict"  isn't really relevant.
Have you thought of joining a community growing project? \or maybe offering to help on a farm?
Is it time to retire yet?


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2015, 07:08:22 pm »
I think the first thing is what are you trying to achieve overall?  For example would the smallholding and alpacas be a hobby only, or a source of income (and if so, how?).

If it's a hobby, it's really just a question of what sort of hobby you can afford and how.  If it's a business you can look at costs vs income to see if there's a profit there, and if so, what sort of investment that would support.

"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett


  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • ScotHebs
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2015, 07:47:32 pm »
Hi Mike - it's a real bummer to leave the forces after all those years to find you really have to start again from scratch.  Have you researched any help which may be available through veteran support or similar?

The first thing I thought when I read your post was - "alpacas??", because alpacas are extremely expensive livestock to buy.  As you have no funds you will need to set your sights lower than that, at least initially.

Have you heard of WWOOFS and HelpX ?  With these schemes you offer to work on farms and smallholdings for a set number of hours per day, and in return you get free board and lodging.  WWOOFS is British, and HelpX is world wide. With HelpX you can also do a wider variety of work, so as well as just learning how to run an Organic Farm, you can gain a much wider experience on all types of farms, gardens, ranches, big enterprises, small enterprises, and you can stay for a week, a month or a year, whatever you arrange.  You must find your own travel expenses of course, but it is possible to live this way for minimal cost as you learn the realities of your dream, from people who are already living it.

You can find out more about these organisations by searching online - but be aware there is an unrelated HelpX site which if I recall correctly is rude  ::)

I can remember being at the same stage as you are, wondering how on earth you get into this business, but I do think that for you the HelpX or possibly WWOOFS route could be good.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2015, 07:49:07 pm by Fleecewife »
"Let's not talk about what we can do, but do what we can"

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  • Joined Jan 2015
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2015, 08:16:10 pm »
Thanks for the replies guys,
The reason i said Alpacas is because i would like to create a sustainable and ethical environment which would be a lifestyle aswell as a possible income (using the fleece). Iv also thought about the idea of getting some land and building my own place but the more i research the more the expenses mount up. Thanks for your comments though, they are greatly appreciated. :)


  • Joined Oct 2012
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2015, 09:23:12 pm »
 :wave: best of luck whatever you go on to do, let's hope the beautiful sunshine we've had todayis a good omen for everyone


  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2015, 09:00:53 am »
The Scottish Government has grant funding available for new entrants to farming and young farmers - under 41 - under the Pillar 2 CAP funding (Scottish Rural Development Fund (SRDP)).

You would have to check with the Rural Payments folk about eligibility.

I agree with Womble - do you want a business that will make your living or do you plan to farm part-time and have another income from elsewhere? In either scenario, the lifestyle you want (and other income) will determine how much the farm has to make - and trust me, it's not easy to make a profit on a small acreage and almost impossible with livestock.

The Soil Association commissioned a report a few years ago about making a living off 10 acres - try and get a copy. It can be done but very specific circumstances were common to all - no capital borrowing, low cost lifestyles, intensive enterprises like salad veg.

The money in alpacas seems to be in selling breeding stock rather than in the fibre - and it's hard to see how that's sustainable.

Hope you manage to work something out  :thumbsup:


  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Stirlingshire, Central Scotland
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2015, 12:35:10 pm »
The money in alpacas seems to be in selling breeding stock rather than in the fibre - and it's hard to see how that's sustainable.

Yes, that's always concerned me a bit with Alpacas, adorable though they seem. For example, if an alpaca fleece averages say 5kg and sells for 8/kg (let's assume it's the very best of stuff), that's 40. However, if each animal costs around 1000 to buy ( :o ), even without any land or feeding costs accounted for, I just don't see how the business adds up without also selling breeding stock. However, that's a tricky business to get into. It's a bit like with our Zwartbles sheep - they've got top pedigrees and all, but nobody is going to pay top whack to buy our lambs. Even if we got it all right and produced some absolute crackers, we just don't have a reputation to trade on.
Of course the only way to build a good reputation is to buy the very best of stock (lots of ) and then go out and win prizes with them. This would put us in competition with other people in the same position and TBH better at it than us to begin with, so whilst success is possible, it clearly won't happen overnight!
So, I'm only saying it as I see it (as an outsider), but I'd love to know what I'm missing here!
"All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once." -Terry Pratchett


  • Joined Sep 2012
  • NW Highlands
    • Facebook
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2015, 12:09:38 am »
hi Mike  :wave:

have you done anything like this before or is this a 180 degree from forces life? My OH is ex-forces.

as said previously any scrap of land is worth something to someone, we have people up here selling piddly wee crofts for 10's of thousands, so its not a cheap thing to get into from most directions but as Rosemary says, there are entrant schemes which you may find useful. You'll never get rich at this game but from what you say you are looking for the same thing most of us are, a nicer, more rewarding life with a little income here and there.
Good luck, have you tried SSaFa? they might be able to point you in a direction?


keeper of goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, chickens, turkeys, dogs, cats, goldfish and children, just don't ask me which is the most work!


  • Global Moderator
  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
    • Nantygroes
    • Facebook
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2015, 06:15:07 am »
I agree with the above ...... Firstly get lots of experience .... And maybe find a job on a farm for a while.... You will learn lots about what you don't want to do!!!   As for Alpacas they are a rich man's sheep in my opinion  :innocent:  You would be very much the exception if you could make enough money from livestock to support yourself let alone any dependants.  It is worth looking at grants for under 40's ..   Good luck.

Don't wrestle with pigs, they will love it and you will just get all muddy.

Let go of who you are and become who you are meant to be.
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  • Joined Mar 2015
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2015, 04:40:53 pm »
would renting some land be an option? our friends have just rented 2 acres in Essex for 200 per year!
nothing on it but grass and they have to upkeep the fencing etc.


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2015, 12:00:05 pm »
Someone once quoted to me (and I don't know the origin) - give your enemy a smallholding and he will work himself to death.
There is a lot of truth in it. There is none of the economies of scale so you pay top price for everything. It takes almost as long to feed 6 hens as a hundred +, and it's the same with most other classes of livestock.
So how can you possibly compete?
With no specialised knowledge you have no unique selling point for anything you produce, so how can you make a living on a small scale when professionals struggle on a large scale?
With no money you cannot even get top quality stock and sell them at a premium price.
I'm not deliberately setting out to be bleak and burst your bubble but there are no fairytale start up schemes available or there would be thousands killed in the rush. Most people start off small and expand as they get the opportunity. I studied agriculture, worked in agriculture for a few years, and started off with half an acre. It's taken me 40 years to build up to 60 acres, and it still wouldn't sustain me full time.   
You need to be realistic. I would suggest getting a job for which you are qualified/have experience and keep your eye out for somewhere with a bit of land. There's very little available to rent at a cheap rent - just check some of the old posts on here and you'll see what I mean.
Do the army not give you some sort of grant when you leave? If so, possibly you could keep this for a deposit and when you get a job then you could buy your own place. Even if it only has a large back garden, it's a start.
Yes it would be lovely if there were cheap bits of land available and grants for everyone that wanted to be a smallholder but I'm afraid life's not like that. But if you're really keen, dedicated and single minded, you'll get there in the end.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • Joined Aug 2014
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2015, 04:49:06 pm »
Good luck my dear :fc: I scrimped and saved, worked double shifts and had a bit of luck to buy my few acres, years ago. I have recently sold a small bit of it for the same price I paid for all of it!!


  • Joined Aug 2014
Re: Advice Needed
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2015, 05:21:08 pm »
Did you see The Ruminant's post re. cottage and land to rent?


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