A smallholding is a small farm. smallholdings are usually farms supporting a single family with a mixture of cash crops and subsistence farming. As a country becomes more affluent, smallholdings may not be self-sufficient but are valued primarily for the rural lifestyle that they provide for the owners, who often do not earn their livelihood from the farm. There are an estimated 500 million smallholder farms in the world, supporting almost two billion people. Today some companies try to include smallholdings into their value chain, providing seed, feed or fertilizer to improve production. Some say that this model shows benefits for both parties.
Smallholdings in Britain
In British English usage, a smallholding is a piece of land and its adjacent living quarters for the smallholder and stabling for farm animals. It is usually smaller than a farm but larger than an allotment, usually under 50 acres (20 ha). It is often established for breeding farm animals organically on free-range pastures. Alternatively, the smallholder may concentrate on growing vegetables by traditional methods or, in a more modern way, using plastic covers, polytunneling or cloches for quick growth.
Generally, a smallholding offers its owner a means of achieving self-sufficiency for their family's needs. They may be able to supplement their income by selling surplus produce at a farmers' market or at a permanent shop on the smallholding.
Hobby farms in Australia
In Western Australia, many small acre farms were established under the Agricultural Land Purchase Act to encourage settlement. The government purchased large land grants held by absentee owners and subdivided them according to the best use for the land: the development of orchids in Coondle, viticulture, horse breeding, sheep grazing, and high density crops like corn, and broad acre crops like wheat.
A hobby farm in Australia is a variety of smallholding that may be as small as 2 hectares up to a self-sustaining farm size, that allows the "city farmer" to have a house and a small number of animals or small crop fields or grape vines. In Western Australia, they are often termed Special Rural Properties for planning purposes.
Lifestyle blocks in New Zealand
In New Zealand, a lifestyle block is a smallholding valued primarily for the rural lifestyle it affords. Planning restrictions on subdividing farm land often lead to the creation of lifestyle blocks of minimum permissible size near urban areas.
In many developing countries, a smallholding is a small plot of land with low rental value, used to grow crops. By some estimates, there are 525 million smallholder farmers in the world. Smallholders dominate production in certain key sectors such as coffee and cocoa. Various types of agribusinesses work with smallholding farmers in a range of roles including buying crops, providing seed, and acting as financial institutions.
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- International Finance Corporation (2013). Working with Smallholders: A Handbook for Firms Building Sustainable Supply Chains, p. 12. http://www.farms2firms.org
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