The Rural Living Handbook - a helpful guide from NSW Local Land Services
What happens when city folk escape to the country to live the great Australian dream without any practical knowledge?
Local Land Services, a NSW government agency that provides on-ground advice and assistance to rural landholders, has responded to this need by releasing a toolkit of new and updated resources to help people make the shift to country life.
How Local Land Services is helping new farmowners
As of September 2020, more and more people are considering moving to regional areas, spurred on by the remote working opportunities provided through COVID-19. Country properties are being snapped up.
Acreage can be rewarding, but if people do not have the skills and knowledge to look after their land and livestock properly, the dream can turn into a nightmare.
“The landholders we help are pretty diverse, from large-scale primary producers to people who have a lifestyle block or hobby farm,” said Peter Evans, Senior Land Services Officer at Local Land Services.
“We tailor our help to what they need with the end goal of making sure our farms and environments are productive and healthy.”
The new resources include the 2020 update of the Rural Living Handbook which is a starter guide to getting the most out of a rural property.
It covers a range of topics as diverse as emergencies, rural crime, owning livestock, farm safety, developing a property and what each landholder’s General Biosecurity Duty is.
The handbook includes a ‘Before you buy’ checklist that lists the sort of questions a prospective rural property owner should ask prior to purchase, to avoid potential problems.
The handbook is not designed to include everything a new or prospective rural resident may want to know but is intended to be a springboard for further personal research.
Each section includes lists of useful resources and websites as well as contact details for organisations that provide support to rural landholders.
What are farmowners saying?
Susan Crowe is one landholder who has been helped by Local Land Services and the Rural Living Handbook.
She says she referred to the handbook a lot in the early days after she and her husband Greg bought a 134-hectare property at Wallerawang, west of Lithgow four years ago.
They wanted the farm to pay for itself, but it was overrun with blackberries, and they knew very little about how to achieve that goal.
“We were consciously incompetent; we knew we didn’t know anything,” said Mrs Crowe.
“When you’re starting out, you need to surround yourself with people you can trust, and Local Land Services provided such a diverse range of expertise.”
What is 'Every Bit Counts'?
Another new resource for rural property owners is an online information hub called ‘Every Bit Counts’ specifically aimed at ‘blockies’ and small area farmers.
“The meaning of Every Bit Counts is that we are making sure every piece of land in our landscape mix, every hobby farm or small acreage, is given the attention it deserves,” said Kylie Matthews, Local Land Services Project Coordinator.
As part of Every Bit Counts, people can sign up to a new service called ‘Blockies bootcamp’ where they get 12 weekly emails packed with training, information and guidance.
Local Land Services also has a range of digital resources such as the Big Shift for Small Farms podcast which is designed to equip and connect small farmers with topics like ‘Startup farming’ and ‘Urban farming’.
For further information:
These resources and others can be found by searching www.lls.nsw.gov.au
Any NSW rural landholder wanting advice, assistance or to attend training such as webinars can call Local Land Services on 1300 795 299 or make an online enquiry at www.lls.nsw.gov.au/contact-us
Note: due to COVID 19, Local Land Services offices are currently open by appointment only.
Author: Melanie Pearce is a member of the Communications team at Local Land Services. Before that she was a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation covering rural and regional affairs.