Having spent four years away from my Irish smallholding I’ve been thinking about what it meant to be a smallholder.
Of course I had many occasions when people assumed the smallholding was the ‘hobby’ of my husband. Having worked & studied in the male dominated industries of farming, forestry & nature conservation I am more than used to those type of comments.
I started to develop my smallholding for two main reasons. I wanted to grow veg & involve my children in this wonderful pastime, as I had done with my Grandparents as a child. Secondly I have a life long passion for traditional breed livestock. I use the term ‘traditional’ rather than ‘rare’ breed, as thanks to many dedicated people many breeds have increased in numbers and are no longer classed as rare. With this is mind I purchased my Kerry heifer. Subsequently I added a variety of poultry and pigs to my smallholding.
I appreciate that there are many people making a living from 2-4 acres by growing and selling direct to consumers. However most (not all) of those people appear to be horticultural and do not attempt to keep livestock. The challenge of keeping livestock on 2-10 acres is quite a big challenge & does mean you have to look after your grass meticulously well in order to cut down on feed bills.
You feel a little in no man’s land on 4 acres. Due to the hefty commitments of my husband’s landscape gardening businesses, 4 children, studying an MSc in Organic Farming and IFOAM Organic leadership training I never got any further than feeding my family with some fresh food.
I will admit I am quite a social animal who enjoys lively discussion with like minded and non-like minded people. However I also love the grounded feeling of working with plants and animals, and that’s what my smallholding gave me, a manageable but strong connection with my farming roots!