This research gained an understanding of the economic, environmental and social impact of rural food and farming microbusinesses, their challenges and innovation potential through surveying members of the Landworkers' Alliance (LWA) in England, Scotland and Wales operating within localised supply chains

A set of 10 recommendations emerged from the research to better support rural microbusinesses to produce sustainable, local and healthy food

It was funded through NICRE’s Research and Innovation Fund.

Pictured are LWA members Ashley Wheeler and Kate Norman who have been running Trill Farm Garden in East Devon since 2010. Photo credit: Karen Robinson.

Research team


Key findings

LWA members are more likely to be new entrants, tend to be younger than their farming peers and run smaller enterprises.

Most operate a portfolio of enterprises diversified mainly into the food system, processing and retailing food rather than selling along the food chain or servicing the agricultural sector.

Although many are owner-operators, a sizeable minority employ others. These businesses' social and environmental engagements are the primary motivation for the business operators, with profit as means to these ends. Volunteering opportunities are a crucial offer from these businesses while improving and regenerating the farmed environment is an equal priority.

Conclusions and recommendations

The recommendations are:

  1. Eligibility for agri-environmental support for smaller farms and holdings.
  2. Support businesses that benefit wellbeing and the 'green mind' (prioritising nature).
  3. Expand permitted development for farm and horticultural buildings.
  4. Provision of affordable rented properties for agricultural workers.
  5. Business support packages focused on environmental and social outcomes. 

6. Machine rings (of shared assets) focused on small-scale agriculture and food processing.

7. Support initiatives to provide regional Dynamic Procurement Systems (DPS) schemes.

8. Increased renting out of small parcels of land for smaller enterprises.

9. Framework for developing novel skills to future-proof businesses.

10.Supporting opportunities for local producers to supply good quality staples into the food justice and solidarity networks.