When a lifestyle business is more than a lifestyle business

14th March, 2011

Report: Small is Successful - Creating sustainable livelihoods on ten acres or less

New research from an academic at the University of Plymouth has shown that small farms are sustainable.

The accounts from a number of smallholdings across the South West of England were among those examined, the owners interviewed and working practices monitored.

This research concentrated on those with 10 acres or less and showed how a land-based venture lead by someone with the right attitude and commercial acumen can lead to real success.

Whilst we might not be too surprised by this on the face of it, given that many small farm businesses appear to have been sustaining livelihoods from one generation to the next, it is just possible that the success of these enterprises has more to do with the endeavour of the people involved than the actual size of the holding.

Research we conducted in 2003 for the Rural Progress project in the wake of foot and mouth showed that whilst most traditional farmers were in farming because it was a way of life – and many did not know how to approach doing anything differently – there was another important group of people with innovative approaches to business. Certainly the larger establishments had the resources and management approach to innovate. However, most interestingly were those we termed the “chosen returnees.” These were either siblings with a farming background who initially decided to follow a different career path and had now chosen to return to the family farm, or non-farming people who had identified business opportunities and were drawn to farming because of the way of life.

Small may be successful, beautiful even, but flexible, open minded, enterprising, and maybe disruptive are likely to be most important.

You can download the “Small is Successful” report here:

Objective One Media Release: “Research indicates strong correlation between farm profits and training” – a research study for Rural Progress into the social and economic structure of farming and land ownership in Cornwall