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Smallholdings 'play vital role'

PUBLISHED: 13:56 15 March 2011 | UPDATED: 08:37 28 March 2014

MARCH 15, 2011: A new report has highlighted the vital role played by smallholdings in Britain.

The report, released by the Ecological Land Co-operative, says dynamic small farms are vital in boosting rural economies and have a role in establishing national food security.
The report, Small is Successful!: Creating sustainable livelihoods on 10 acres or less, features eight case studies of farms producing everything from traditional fruit and vegetables to champagne cider and shiitake mushrooms. One of the co-authors was CS writer Rebecca Laughton. Rebecca’s colleague, Dr. Larch Maxey, of Plymouth University, said: “These farms’ success turns upside down the established understanding that only large farms are viable. The fact that these businesses can succeed on tiny pockets of marginal land flies in the face of the perceived wisdom on farm viability.”
The report shows that smallholders’ ingenuity and commitment is the key to success, rather than acreage or fertility. Every ‘low acreage livelihood’ featured in the report increased production and biodiversity whilst creating sustainable jobs.
The report warns that ‘red tape’ must be cut if these businesses are to flourish, however. “These dynamic farms offer a beacon of hope, creating jobs, quality produce and enhancing our countryside, yet they are being strangled by red tape,” said Dr Maxey.
“Unlike most farms, those we studied receive no subsidies. They are not asking for handouts, just a fair chance to prove themselves.”
The report suggests that such small scale enterprises have a huge role to play in boosting rural economies and national food security, whilst creating new entry to farming, affordable housing and demonstrating highly sustainable development.
Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University, London, and former Commissioner at the Sustainable Development Commission, said: “This report is testament to the sheer hard work, intelligence and skills of small farming. It draws important lessons: more viability from harvesting plants than animals, the slow task of skills development, the need to open up access to land in the UK, and the need to rebuild decent, dignified primary food production.
“At a time when policy-makers are tantalised by promises of Big Farming, which is actually beset by a different set of vice-like squeezes (declining profits, expensive inputs, ruthless supermarket buying practices), these small scale stories remind us there is another way to build a sustainable food culture.”
The report can be found at: http://www.ecological land.coop/projects-small-successful
The Ecological Land Co-operative (ELC) supports new entrants into farming by creating affordable, highly-sustainable smallholdings. Established in 2007, the ELC is a multi-stakeholder co-operative For more information see www.ecologicalland.coop
Co-author Rebecca Laughton is author of Surviving and Thriving on the Land (Green Books, 2008).

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