• home
  • posts
  • would you like to be an ecological smallholder
  • Posted July 22nd, 2021

    Would you like to be an ecological smallholder?

    Would you like to be an ecological smallholder?

    Would you like to be an ecological smallholder? The Ecological Land Co-op are looking for smallholders for plots of land in Devon and Cornwall. More below from Luci at the ELC:

    The ELC model is to buy a parcel of land of around 20 acres and divide it into 3-5 small farm plots of between 3 and 10 acres. We apply for planning permission for agriculturally tied, rural workers’ dwellings for each plot so that our new smallholders can live on their land. As part of the development, the ELC provides shared infrastructure on site which includes a track, a shared barn, a rainwater collection system, and a PV array on the barn roof. We also provide support to our new farmers in the form of business planning and agricultural mentoring. You can find out more about our model here.

    We then sell a 150 year lease for the plot with permission for the smallholder to site a temporary dwelling on their land. We aim to keep the leases affordable for new entrants to farming. The price of the lease is set to recover ELC’s costs of buying and developing land and is subsidised with our own fundraising. There are also rent to buy and rental options for leaseholders.

    Initially the planning permission is temporary for 5 years so that the farmers can prove they are engaged in farm-scale agriculture and demonstrate both the financial viability of their ecological businesses and also a functional need for them to be living on their land in order to maintain them. Before the end of this 5 years, and once the businesses have been established, the ELC will apply for permanent permission for smallholders to live on their farms.

    ELC are currently actively developing three new ecological small farm sites with 8 plots for new entrants to farming to establish viable, ecological, small-scale farm businesses. We have currently have 1 plot available at our sites in Somerset and 2 plots at our site in Cornwall. You can find out more about each one here.

    We’re on the hunt for passionate landworkers and ecological entrepreneurs who are ready now, or will be ready in the next 1-2 years, to build an ecological growing business on an ELC plot.

    We don’t expect you to be ready to go today. We are very keen to hear from you if you are passionate and committed to gaining enough experience to set up a small farm business. This business could be any land-based enterprise – from fruit and veg, to animal products & dairy, fibre, fuel and medicine.

    We’d like to develop good relationships over an extended period of time with people who are interested in becoming ELC stewards, to help us get to know each other and perhaps to identify where you need to gain more experience in order to take on this exciting challenge and commitment.

    To get started we ask that you read all the information in this section of the website, including our interview with current ELC tenant James Dexter; our step-by-step guide to the application process (below); our guide to our lease agreement and the information sheets for our upcoming sites in Somerset and Cornwall.

    A step by step guide to the application process

    Our application process is open-ended and its stages are not set in stone. The steps described below provide an outline of the kind of process applicants can expect. We expect that every applicant’s experience of the process will be slightly different because every applicant will be at a different stage in their journey of being ready to take on an ELC holding. If you have any questions please send an email to [email protected] and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

    Is it right for you?

    Read the material in this section of our website to decide if you think this might be the right opportunity for you.

    Are you ready?

    We’ll arrange a short, informal telephone interview to confirm you’re ready to apply

    Are you still interested?

    We’ll provide you with an application form, business plan template and more info about the site(s) you’re interested in to help you to decide if you want to take your application to the next stage.

    Ready to apply?

    Carefully read our example lease and management plan, complete the application form and start work on your business plan.

    Meet us on the land

    Visit one or more of our sites in your own time and attend one of our quarterly open days to meet us face to face.

    Finish your business plan

    Your business plan is crucial to our assessment of the viability of your application. We will need to see a comprehensive draft version of it before you’re ready to move to the next stage of the application process.


    We’ll arrange an interview with you and, if appropriate, send your business plan to be assessed by one of our independent specialists.

    Assessment phase

    If the interview process is successful then we will support you to develop aspects of your business plan and spend time getting to know you better. This phase is different for everyone, and might involve spending a week on one of our farms, meeting with other applicants who’re applying for plots on the same site, visiting your existing farm project and producing a version of your business plan that can be submitted to the planning authority.


    If you make it through the assessment phase we’ll offer you a plot at your chosen site. However, you will not be able to move on until temporary planning permission has been granted and, if required, your business plan has been approved by the planning authority. We’ll meet to discuss in details the terms of the lease, ecological management plan and financial aspects of our agreement.

    Would you like to be a smallholder with the ELC?

    The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's


    • 1davek640 August 12th, 2021

      Fantastic opportunity for someone!

      I wish I was younger and healthier.

    • 2Angie Quemby August 19th, 2021

      How about a ballpark figure for the plots?

    Leave a comment

    We welcome questions.

    There’s a crash coming – a slap from Mother Nature. This isn’t pessimistic; it’s realistic.

    The human impact on nature and on each other is accelerating and needs systemic change to reverse.

    We’re not advocating poverty, or a hair-shirt existence. We advocate changes that will mean better lives for almost everyone.

    Facebook icon Twitter icon Youtube icon

    All rights reserved © lowimpact 2023