As more and more city people consider moving to regional areas prompted by COVID 19 circumstances, many are considering buying a rural property and escaping to the country.
For many of us, the idea of ‘getting away from it all’ and becoming a part of a rural community is a lifelong dream.
Acreage can be rewarding but people need to have the skills and knowledge to look after their land and animals properly, so the great Aussie dream does not turn into a nightmare.
Local Land Services has responded to this need by releasing a toolkit of new and updated resources to help people successfully make the shift to country life.
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.
“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.”
“We understand it is not always easy to know what to do or the right people or organisations to go to for help, if you have never lived in a rural area before.”
Susie 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.”
The Rural Living Handbook is the most up to date version of a guide that was originally compiled nearly 20 years ago for councils throughout Sydney’s drinking water catchment.
It was largely based on the work of Jack Miller, a Landscape Planner at Goulburn Mulwaree Council who said he is pleased the handbook is just as relevant today as in 2004.
“Back then, we saw a need for some basic information for people who were moving into our local government area who did not know much about rural life,” he said.
“Over the years this publication has been reproduced in a number of formats in NSW and interstate and I am really pleased to see Local Land Services release this updated edition.”
David and Kim King also thank Local Land Services for helping them gain farming confidence when they bought 33 hectares at Berry in the state’s south east.
David says that when they moved from Sydney five years ago it was their first venture into farming and they had lots of problems at first and it has been a steep learning curve.
“Local Land Services has been an enormous help, connecting us with training and advice to establish our beef, poultry and apiary enterprise,” Mr King said.
“We attended as many courses, workshops and training sessions as we could on a range of topics including pest animals, agronomy, beekeeping, weeds, sheep and cattle handling and grazing management.
“Without Local Land Services there’s no way we would be in the position we are now – we would have spent more money and made more mistakes. Their help has been invaluable.”
The Rural Living Handbook is available to read or download online at www.lls.nsw.gov.au/rural-living-handbook and in printed form from selected Local Land Services regional offices.
A range of digital resources for new rural landholders or those on acreage can be found by searching the Local Land Services website www.lls.nsw.gov.au
There is the online information hub called ‘Every Bit Counts’ specifically aimed at ‘blockies’ and small area farmers and the Big Shift for Small Farms podcast which is designed to equip and connect small farmers with topics like ‘Startup farming’ and ‘Urban farming’.
Any NSW rural landholder wanting advice, assistance or to attend training such as webinars can call Local Land Services on 1300 795 299 or enquire at www.lls.nsw.gov.au/contact-us