We wrote last month about the management of four acres and of course much of what we said then applies to two acres. This feature will be written, based on the assumption that a financial return is important. Step back from that and the options increase dramatically.
Remember that most important factor that a two-acre plot will be hugely expensive on a ‘per acre’ basis and may cost almost as much as four acres.
With a plot of this small size the soil type becomes even more important and an easy working light or free draining sandy soil, with low clay content will be important for profitability. All of the factors we listed last month take on increased importance as the area diminishes.
Soil type and position A nice little plot of light free draining soil on a south facing slope at low altitude, in the south of the country will produce vast quantities of food. Stray away from this idyll and the work increases whilst the productivity declines.
Livestock On any small acreage, grazing animals are out, right out, if income is important. There just isn’t enough room for the numbers required.
Animals which consume concentrated, purchased food are essential for profit and the most popular of these are pigs and poultry.
Eggs Laying hens are so easy, except for the shutting in at night problem, and produce such a wonderfully packaged, easily marketed item that they are a must.
The other great thing about them is cash flow. You purchase a second hand pen and a few rescue hens for peanuts and within weeks you have eggs to sell. Nothing turns your money round quicker or easier than egg laying hens.
Hatchery Producing rare breed poults for sale is really rewarding in every way and requires very little land. Everyone just loves to be involved with baby chicks, it’s magic.
Half the chicks will of course be male and if the right breed, these can be taken on and reared as table birds, or sold to others to be fattened.
Pigs Pigs make such a mess but can be very profitable from a small area, if carefully managed and cleverly marketed. Taking advantage of the unbelievably wasteful supermarket food chain can cut feed costs dramatically.
Rotating the pig area with outdoor vegetables can take advantage of the fertility left by the pigs. Good fencing is essential if complete devastation of the whole farm is to be avoided. Light, free draining soil is almost essential.
Polytunnel The good old polytunnel does quite definitely produce more profit per square foot (or metre) than any of the aforementioned enterprises, but of course the initial investment is quite high. Bedding plants and hanging baskets are in great demand, but very seasonal. Exotic or out of season vegetables can also pay well.
Irrigation and heating may be required and the cost of these must always be considered when planning what to grow. As with most things the work you put in is reflected in the money you take out of such a project.
Outdoor Vegetables and Soft Fruit Whilst these do not require much land they use up a lot of your time and effort and profits do not compare with the three ‘P’s, Poultry, Pigs and Polytunnels. The return on capital is however very good and the money invested low, which makes them attractive for those who are short of cash. Don’t forget that an orchard can be utilised by poultry to the benefit of both.
Money We believe that a two acre plot could produce an annual profit of £20,000 from an investment of £30.000 of capital in the setting up of several enterprises from which, all the produce is retailed to the end user, the housewife or husband.
Don’t for one moment think that this will be easy or instant. It will take years to build up a customer base and to learn the marketing and farming techniques required.It will require persistent dedication and attention to detail and will involve many disappointments and setbacks. Only the very determined, hardworking and skilful will achieve it, but it is possible. It is much easier to keep the day job and run such the smallholding venture as a hobby/part time occupation, to be enjoyed as a relaxation, rather than something essential to your very survival.
Look to the future Never forget that smallholding relies on your fitness and continued good health to be profitable and enjoyable.
There is no company pension at the end and it is difficult to get a mortgage when you have the average smallholders earning record.
Investment value On the other side of the coin, it is quite likely, but far from guaranteed, that your two acres will be worth more when you retire, than you paid for it.
With a larger acreage, I think the percentage increase in value will be greater.
To contact Rob Jeffery for help or advice with your smallholding, call 01283 585 410 or visit newlandowner.co.uk.