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Author Topic: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?  (Read 4413 times)


  • Joined Jun 2021
What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« on: June 25, 2021, 11:26:01 am »
Hi all  :wave:

I have a house that has just under 3 acres of land. Under the current situation my work (gardening) has suffered terribly. and we need to try and get some other form of business going to help pay the bills with. The house sits within the land i do not have to drive to get to it. Me and my family want to start growing vegetables and plant fruit trees on some, the rest have either some live stock or poultry, which would be around 1 and half acres of land for animals (how many goats or cows can you have on say 1.5acres). But to do this costs money. Please does anyone know if around 3 acres of land qualifies as a smallholding so we can possibly get a monetary help to start up from the government and what page that would be on? If it doesn't are there any other schemes to help us to start up. Someone mentioned broad leaf tree scheme to me. But is that only for 10 plus acres of land. Any help or ideas be greatly appreciated. 

Hard work doesn't worry me, but lack of work and income is worrying  :relief:. Or does anyone have any good ideas what i can use the land for and schemes that can help us start up with please? And no we don't want to rent out the land as we want to use it for ourselves  :excited:

All the best to you all
« Last Edit: June 25, 2021, 11:27:40 am by godwinson »


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Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2021, 01:56:29 pm »
There's no legal definition of a smallholding, we use this working definition: "Although there's no established definition of smallholding, we think it's an enterprise that involves keeping livestock as well as growing foodstuff."

You won't qualify for the basic agricultural support payment, for which you need to have at least 3 hectares of eligible land, depending on where you are (I think it's 5 in England, 3 in Scotland).

Without wanting to dampen your enthusiasm, you're going to be very hard pushed to generate any kind of living from 3 acres. You can definitely generate income, but most things you can do to do that require time (as in years), capital input, specific skills, or all three, before they bear fruit.

You might find this useful reading: Creating sustainable livelihoods on 10 acres or less

Something like salad or other high value crops may be an option, if you can find local food businesses to supply, but in the current climate that's obviously a reduced market.

Chicken eggs can generate reasonable income, if you can afford the capital costs and have a market.

Pasture-reared poultry to sell is a possibility, so long as you can work out the practicalities and legalities of the killing and dressing part.

An alternative approach would be to produce as much food as possible for yourselves - it's not a direct income but can drastically reduce your food bills, and with vegetables you're likely to have excess to sell, if you have a market. We sell excess produce at our gate, but we're fortunate to have that ready market.

I hope this helps, best of luck whatever you decide to do.  :)


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2021, 02:45:18 pm »
I read somewhere: "If you want to kill/immobilise your enemy - give them a smallholding."

Rather cryptic, I know, but another way of saying what others will tell you which is that it will take up all of your time and most of your money.

I don't know where you live but where I am (Yorkshire) there is more work than the local gardeners can handle. With lockdown, people have saved money on not going out and are spending it on improving their houses and gardens.
Therefore, if you're happy to work longer hours, you would be better advertising your services and enlarging your customer base. That way at least you will get minimum wage for the the hours you work. As a smallholder, I read somewhere that @ £3/hour is an average return. In some cases even that is optimistic.
Being a smallholder is a lifestyle, not a career. If it's a decent wage you want, then stick to the day job. :sunshine:
« Last Edit: June 25, 2021, 02:48:01 pm by landroverroy »
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  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2021, 04:45:47 pm »
What about a market garden. Thatís probably the only way of making some money out of a small area like yours- but Iím still not sure youíd get much profit if you take your time into account.

Forget cows- absolutely not enough land. The same goes for sheep too.

Farmers find it hard enough to make a living from the land and thatís with the single farm payment that they receive :roflanim:  in fact most farms have supporting enterprises as farming the land itself is not enough to earn a wage. we looked at a grant from the woodland trust to plant hedges but not heard anything back yet.

You could run some chickens on the other 1.5 acre, selling the eggs if you have a good busy road at the top of your farm lane.

I would honestly enjoy the small holding, do a few chickens, veg, cut flowers, but forget about it earning you a decent living. Just enjoy it for what it is and donít focus on the profit side of things.


  • Joined Feb 2016
  • Leicester
Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2021, 05:55:34 pm »
We keep chickens, ducks, dairy goats (that we milk), grow lots of fruit trees, masses of vegetables and we only have around 0.5 acre!

You could do a LOT with 3 acres! However if you want to make a loving out of it, it is a different thing all together...

You could start a market garden - it is a lot of work (and some money of course) to start and establish it. It is a lot of work generally, it can pay of quite well when you know what you are doing and have good market for vegetables and eggs (consumers, markets, deliveries, restaurants - all of them combined, etc).

Personally at the moment I prefer to run a smallholding just as a means of providing food for our family and making business out of something else - selling products which don't go off, much less regulations than food, can be stored for years and be sold online, shop, market, pretty much anywhere. And although people are addicted to them - they are perfectly legal. Have you guessed what I sell yet?  :roflanim:
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.


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Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2021, 04:10:41 pm »
Soft fruit bushes?  Even in first years of cheap plants you get good harvests.  So if you spend more on good quality more mature Rasps, Gooseberries, Blackberries(thornless), loganberries etc,  you could start to make money quite quickly
Always have been, always will be, a WYSIWYG - black is black, white is white - no grey in my life! But I'm mellowing in my old age


  • Joined May 2021
  • Ohio River Valley
Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2021, 03:32:08 am »
I don't know the situation in Europe, but in the US, the most valuable crop in the least space is culinary herbs. If my land were drier, I'd be in that business.

Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Oregano, Zataar, Marjoram, Chives, Lavender, Bay Laurel, and Mint are all essentially maintenance free once you get them started. Parsley, Basil, Cilantro, hot peppers, etc... are easily grown annuals. They're about half the price of hemp flowers by weight, but produce more weight per sq ft of field.
Turn your problem into a solution. Learn new things. Adapt as you go. Plans should be fluid and subject to change. I start planning for things years in advance and by the time I do them they have usually changed radically.

"Fall down 7 times, stand up 8" ~Bodhidharma


  • Joined Apr 2016
Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2021, 01:51:53 pm »
Would you be open to using the land for camping over the summer? I think you can get 56 days use a year for campers without needing planning permission and the summer holidays are coming up quickly...could be a quick way of generating some income whilst deciding what else to do longer term.


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Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2021, 08:02:32 am »

You could do a LOT with 3 acres! However if you want to make a loving out of it, it is a different thing all together...

You can definitely make a LOVING out of it  :roflanim: :roflanim:   

But NOT a living!    Introduce any larger animals and you will be in negative income.    Specialist market gardening may work  if your location is suitable for growning and selling.

Best bet is probably 3 acres of solar panels!  :innocent:
« Last Edit: June 28, 2021, 08:06:58 am by Backinwellies »

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  • Joined Oct 2011
  • Huddersfield
Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2021, 09:14:46 pm »
Being a bit of a Radio 4 Farming Today listener, I have 'tried to follow' the new Countryside Stewardship Scheme and Environmental Land Management Scheme (E.L.M.S). To be fair to the Beeb, they did promote all this with a positive attitude and a tongue in cheek hope for the smaller British Family Farm. They quoted DEFRA on what is defined as a Farm? The answer I think was, "Forty acres supporting two full time wages". So the Beeb interviewed a few full time farmers who operate way below this DEFRA defined threshold and who draw nothing from the public purse.

I decided, in my wisdom, to have a go at signing up to the Countryside Stewardship and ELMS, based on what I had gleaned from Farming Today. In other words, to become a farmer, with my three small fields all under 1 hectare. I had an on-line interview/support talk with ADAS (Agricultural Development Advisory Service) which was very helpful and positive. I now had to fill in some forms and applications before the dead lines of June 30th & July 31st. (Much more in depth than this yarn). Unfortunately I struggled trying to complete these on-line forms as nothing seemed to apply? The lady at ADAS said to stay with it as there is much more in the pipeline to come.

Then Farming Today announced that the Government were to carry on with the old EEC 5 Hectare Rule with the new ELMS /Countryside Stewardship ..... "Here come the new boss, same as the old boss" (The Who - Wont get fooled again).
R4 Farming Today were not too impressed with this announcement and had a spokeswoman on from a countryside workers cooperative that represented smaller self sustained farmers.

All this is still on-going, but I did send my letter in, or 'Snotto-gram' as I prefer to call it because I do not think that these new schemes are going anywhere, in fact they are dead in the water before they have hatched. From my own perspective, my fields contain everything that these scheme are intended to help. Public footpath/right of way, styles, 2500 foot of dry stone wall, trees, water course, rare wild life, meadow and arable.
The problem as I now see all this is that, land owners, tenants, under 5 hectares will not benefit anything from these schemes yet the public who have the right to cross our land will think that they are paying us directly through their taxes to keep us, possibly creating a kind of arrogance?
Anybody else out there in Accidental Smallholder Land aware of all this ELMS / Countryside Stewardship (and other schemes) ?  :raining:
A man who cannot till the soil cannot till his own soul !
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  • Joined Apr 2016
Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2021, 10:33:23 pm »
I have just (a month or so ago but within the deadline) sent off my country side stewardship "upland offer"  application
It took many hours to get all the information needed.
I have not seen any useful info on the "new " ELMS so went the route that I have, on the basis that to be on the ladder will be better than not
I have been on single payment scheme for several years . One needs, not only the 5ha+ but also the "entitlements" (read quota!)  which need to be purchased

For my efforts in the stewardship scheme, it is estimated that I might receive £1400 over 5 years
Hope that helps


  • Joined Apr 2016
Re: What size is a small holding? Does 3acres of land count?
« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2021, 08:57:38 am »
update on this if interested;

One of the conditions of the "upland offer" is that supplementary feeding is not allowed - only mineral blocks

Yet capital grants are available for protecting feed areas from poaching

I have now to take 2 fields out of the scheme, making it almost worthless


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