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A smallholding is a small farm. In third world countries, smallholdings are usually farms supporting a single family with a mixture of cash crops and subsistence farming. As a country becomes more affluent and farming practices become more efficient, smallholdings may persist as a legacy of historical land ownership practices[dubious ]. In more affluent societies, smallholdings may be 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 2 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.
In a separate development, so-called pick-your-own farms have appeared over the years near towns, which in type of management belong more to the category of smallholdings than to farms. Pick your own Strawberries were pioneered in the UK by Ted Moult in 1961. This kind of business usually consists of a large field which has been subdivided into areas for fruit trees, shrubs, or various vegetables which ripen in different seasons. The smallholder maintains the gardens, and the consumers pay to harvest their own produce.
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 Australian usage 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, these 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.
Open Source Ecology and Farm Hack have begun to make open source agricultural machinery to lower costs for smallholding farmers in the developed and developing world. In addition, Farmbot and the RepRap open source 3D printer community has begun to make open-source farm tools available of increasing levels of sophistication (e.g. handtools, food processing, animal management, water management and hydroponics).
- International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): http://www.ifad.org/operations/food/farmer.htm
- Christina Gradl; et al. (March 2013). "Promising agribusiness". dandc.eu.
- Bunnett, R.B. (2002). Interactive Geography 4, pp. 125, 315. SNP Pan Pacific Publishing. ISBN 981-208-657-9.
- Nagayets,Oksana (2005). The Future of Small Farms. International Food Policy Research Institute and Overseas Development Institute Vision 2020 Initiative, p. 356 http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/sfproc.pdf
- International Finance Corporation (2013). Working with Smallholders: A Handbook for Firms Building Sustainable Supply Chains, p. 12. http://www.farms2firms.org
- A worldwide community of farmers that build and modify our own tools. http://farmhack.org/app/
- Open source CNC farming http://go.farmbot.it/
- Pearce, J.M.(2015). Applications of Open Source 3-D Printing on Small Farms. Organic Farming 1(1), 19-35. DOI: 10.12924/of2014.01010019
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