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By Katie Thear

This article is based on The Smallholder's Manual by Katie Thear, published by Crowood and is basically an extract styled for the web. Katie & David ran their smallholding at Broad Leys for 13 years along with publishing magazines and writing. Our logo is based on the main house at Broad Leys.

Buying a Smallholding is in 3 parts, this is part three; Particular Needs & Some Questions to ask yourself.

Particular Needs for Your Smallholding

Part-time smallholders are, by definition, part-time something else, and this is usually the half that generates an income. A home office is therefore often an essential pre-requisite on a modern smallholding; it may be in the home or in a converted outbuilding.

Whether an enterprise is land-based or not, it is important to cheek that there are no restrictive covenants on the house or land that might curtail particular activities, such as keeping poultry.

Conversely, if there is an ‘agriculture only’ designation, it may prove difficult to start a non-agricultural business, or to go in for a particular kind of building. Some countries have zoning, licensing and registration requirements; these vary in different states, but federal, state, county and city agencies will provide the necessary information.

Legal searches will normally unearth any covenants or other conditions. It makes sense to establish whether there is likely to be a problem before the property is purchased; the panel below lists the main questions to ask.

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Smallholding

  • Is the house suitable for your needs?
  • Can it be easily extended?
  • Is it a listed building?
  • Is there an ‘agricultural use only’ condition?
  • Can a non-agricultural business be started?
  • Is there a mains or private water supply? What is its condition?
  • Can the water supply be extended?
  • Is there mains or private sewerage? What is its condition?
  • Is there a private or a public electricity supply? What is its condition?
  • Is three-phase electricity available for heavy machinery?
  • Does it have all the necessary services?
  • Are there any other restrictive covenants?
  • How high is the farm?
  • Is it on steep ground?
  • Is it north- or south-facing?
  • Is it sheltered or exposed?
  • What is the state of the outbuildings?
  • What grade agricultural land is it?
  • What are the prevalent weeds?
  • What is the drainage like?
  • Are there any shared access rights?
  • Is there evidence of vermin?
  • What is the pH value of the soil?
  • Are there many rushes and reeds?
  • What is the condition of the hedges and ditches?
  • Are there any public footpaths or rights of way across the land?
  • What is the condition of fences and gates?
  • What is the average rainfall?
  • Are the fields of a convenient size and shape?
  • Is there a local farmers’ market?
  • Is the farm in a tourist area?
  • How far is the nearest town and shops?
  • How far is the nearest doctor and hospital?
  • Is effective public transport available?
  • What are the neighbours like?
  • What cultural facilities are available?
  • How far are the nearest suitable schools?
  • How far is the nearest vet?
  • Is there easy car access to a main road?
  • What trees are present on the site? Is there any game on the land?
  • Are there any riparian (fishing) rights if there is a stream running through the property?
  • Is there a local source of casual or part-time labour? Is it in a conservation area?
  • What leisure facilities and job prospects are available for children as they get older?
  • Is it really suitable? Be honest!