This Spring, do something special for the Landworkers’ Alliance, in only a couple of hours! If your holding is 20ha or less, and you earn at least part of your living from it, you qualify to take part in our small farms productivity survey – A Matter of Scale. Many of you have signed up for it already, and may be wondering when the questionnaire will actually appear. Well, it is ready now, and you can access it at https://www.survey.bris.ac.uk/coventry/amatterofscale/. It would be wonderful if you could follow this link and complete the questionnaire by 12th April.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, then here is why it would be great if you took part. The results of this survey will be helpful for the LWA is because they will inform our campaign to get better support for small scale producers. The more people that take part, the more representative the survey will be. Amazingly, there appear to be no other sources of data on the productivity of small farms in the UK. While we all know that small farms are about so much more than pure productivity, when arguing that they have a role to play in the future food security of the UK, the amount of food (and other goods) they can produce is clearly a factor. In developing countries, there is well established evidence that smaller holdings are more productive per unit area than larger ones, and if the same is true in the UK, then DEFRA might have to rethink its policy of removing Basic Farm Payment from holdings of under 5ha. If it isn’t, at least we will have evidence of the barriers to productivity faced by small farms.

Taking part in this survey is therefore one of the most valuable things you can do to support our campaigning activities. Even if you don’t feel your farm is very productive, it would be helpful to understand the obstacles that prevent it from becoming more productive. Completing the questionnaire might even be a useful exercise for you, in evaluating the recent performance of your farm. In addition to collecting productivity data, we hope that the results of this survey will provide a clear picture of the range of small scale farms in operation and who is running them (ie young/old/male/female/new entrants/people from farming families).

As a further incentive to take part, I would remind you that all those who submit the questionnaire will be entered into a prize draw to win a £250 voucher for a short break with Organic Holidays (http://www.organicholidays.co.uk), at a B&B or holiday cottage of your choice, and one of five Opinel pocket knives.

After analysing the results, in the next phase of the research we would like to visit some of the highest yielding holdings/market gardens and conduct interviews to find out how they manage to be so productive. The final stage of the study will be a skill sharing event, to which all those who completed the survey will be invited. At this event, the results of the survey and the interviews will be shared (in a form which does not allow individuals to be identified) and all who have submitted a questionnaire will be invited to share their tips and observations for increasing productivity in enterprise themed workshops. We hope this will be a helpful and inspiring event. If you only wish to take part in the survey, however, there is no compulsion to continue with the interview or workshop phases.

So please take part in this survey, which we hope will stimulate greater interest in the possibilities that smallholdings, market gardens and small-scale farms offer when it comes to producing large quantities of diverse, delicious and sustainable food.

If you have any questions about the survey, please get in touch with Rebecca at amatterofscale@gmail.com