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Smallholders Handbook Part 8

Here is our eighth instalment about joining the Food Industry and living off the land with a sustainable smallholding.

At BigBarn we would love to promote thousands of profitable smallholdings on our UK Food Map to help reconnect people with where their food comes from and helping build inclusive, sustainable, communities around food.

To help here is the eighth of 12 extracts from Lorraine Turnbull’s book The Sustainable Smallholders’ Handbook

Those who can…..Teach
As a training co-ordinator for the Rural Business School in Cornwall, I found that among the students were a number of working farmers and growers who wanted to expand their knowledge of a wide range of subjects both at certificated and uncertified levels. You need formal qualifications for some areas of work on the holding, but by no means for all; some people, though, just feel happier having a certificate even if they don’t really need one. We all have to accept that we can’t learn everything, but to master the skills we lack we may have to pay someone else for their expertise. And who better to pay than someone who’s done it all not once but every day – maybe someone like you?

Learn about chicken keeping?

There’s a steady demand for courses in horticulture, agriculture, animal husbandry and other rural skills, many of which are taught formally in classrooms in community colleges and other similar venues, but many of which can’t be taught in conventional settings. After all, you can’t really demonstrate how to kill and dress a chicken for the table in a classroom! You might want to sign up to teach a part-time or evening course at a local college; but if you have the appropriate facilities – parking, toilets and somewhere that will stand in for a classroom – and a subject that people are eager to learn then it might be worth considering whether you have the qualities you need to make extra money by passing your knowledge on to others.

Teaching is a flexible skill. It may be one to one or one to one hundred; it can be a lecture, a practical demonstration, a day course, or a set of classes over a few weeks. Each situation is as different and as unique as each learner. The snide old saying ‘those that can – do, and those that can’t – teach’ couldn’t be further from the truth: teaching is a skill that most doers simply don’t possess. A good teacher will engage their learners with interesting and informative lessons, and be able to measure the learners’ knowledge both at the start and at the end of a lesson – that doesn’t just happen by chance. A lot of work goes into lesson planning, with a variety of teaching styles included because we all learn differently. Some of us like to read to learn, others to watch a video or demonstration; others prefer to act out or practice a task physically. Some of us learn better on our own and others in groups, and a good lesson will try to cover a subject in a variety of activities and tasks.

Let’s build a better, local, food industry

As a result teaching is a great responsibility. It is tiring and demanding, and if you mess up then your failure is horribly visible. We can all have off days, but if teaching is your livelihood then negative feedback, or worse still negative feedback on social media, will seriously affect your ability to attract new students. Being professional and businesslike has to be the order of the day from putting a course together and making sure your professional paperwork is in order and valid to delivering appropriate teaching.

Teaching on the farm
What you can teach on your own premises depends not only on your own knowledge and experience but also on the facilities you have. Our smallholding had an orchard; we kept bees and chickens; we reared bottle-fed lambs; and we made cider. John had a working forge and two welding bays. That meant we could teach beekeeping, chicken keeping, practical lambing, orchard skills, cider making, blacksmithing, and welding.
Your own ambitions as a teacher will be determined to some extent, as ours were, by the limitations of your holding; but there are other factors to take into account too.

Farming courses

Researching what subjects and courses are already on offer in the area is the obvious first step. John was the only private welding instructor for over 100 miles, so he had quite a few learners over the years and was also a tutor at the Rural Business School. His one-day beginners’ workshops in blacksmithing proved very popular as Christmas and birthday gifts – a handy marketing tip for you there! On the other hand the growing popularity of community apple groups offering very cheap tuition limited the number of pruning workshops I could fill – although I could run two full cider making workshops every October because there was no other provision in the area.

Tempted? You can read more over the next few months or buy Lorraine Turnbull’s book The Sustainable Smallholders’ Handbook available here

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