Adventures in self-sufficiency: growth through generosity
The next in my series on self-sufficient living looks at the importance of generosity to economic growth
Posted on: 11th March 2013
In difficult economic times, it is hardly surprising that ‘growth’ is a preoccupation of our politics at the moment. During the sixties and seventies when my family developed a smallholding, it was a time of increasing economic concern. Our smallholding was a spare time project, but the worse the economic outlook appeared, the more it also seemed prudent to prepare for the worst.
One thing we learned was that while growth certainly depends on hard work, generosity ios equally important. As I have already written, we relied on the generosity of friends and strangers alike with their advice and assistance. And we relied on generosity of a more concrete kind as our flock of Jacob sheep grew, and we realised that we urgently needed some new land. We weren’t sure what to do, but then a villager, Q, heard about our predicament. He was happy to allow us to use his field rent free, as long as we spent a sum equal to its farm rental value on keeping it in proper order.
An inspired offer
It was an inspired offer, and we wasted little time in accepting it. Some friends of ours advised that the best way to get the field in order again (it had previously been grazed too heavily by horses) would be to graze it with sheep and bullocks together, then take a hay crop before grazing it with bullocks again.
We had the sheep, but we still needed to acquire some bullocks – Angus and Ogilvy. As I wrote before, these were the first pure farm animals we owned. (We later raised other bullocks, and we were told that the flavour of our beef was very good.)
So Q’s offer allowed us to expand our business, while at the same time Q’s field was kept in good order – and he had the satisfaction of seeing it put to good use.
We depended on similar generosity from other villagers. At any one time, we used fourteen acres of other people’s land at any one time. We found that the owners were usually more than happy to accept meat or milk instead of rent.
Resources multiply when used wisely
This taught us some important economic lessons. When wealth and resources are used wisely and generously, they can multiply. This principle does not only apply to farming, of course. It is the same logic which motivates investors to fund start-up companies. (They hope to benefit financially once the business is profit-making, but also receive satisfaction from seeing a new company grow.)
When people asked us what we had achieved with our smallholding, I pointed out that aside from the great personal benefits, in our own very small way, our efforts were helping to increase the national wealth, and therefore the possibilities of future employment.
As tough economic times return, we would do well to remember that generating growth requires hard work, but equally, generosity.