A smallholder with an expanse of land can consider various ways in which to use the land to make money. Whether this is your primary source of income or a secondary income stream, there will be a number of factors to consider before you start your journey. We previously covered making money off various ways of growing things: livestock, crops, fish etc. Next, we take a look at some non-agricultural pursuits.
Depending on what kind of business you choose to run, the factors that will determine your success will differ. These factors are over and above the basic inputs costs, set up costs, marketing and advertising, staffing, etc that you will need to consider when starting any business, all of which will differ according to what type of business you run.
Accommodation and Hospitality
With domestic travel continuing to be a popular choice for many South Africans, and activities such as destination weddings, bridal events, conferences back in full swing after Covid, you may consider turning your plot, or parts of it, into accommodation facilities of some sort. This could take the form of small, self-catering cottages, Airbnbs, a full-board guesthouse, dormitories for school tours and team-building events, or a conference centre. Regardless of what style of accommodation and how fancy you choose to make it, there are basics to consider.
Along the same lines, you might be interested in setting up a restaurant or coffee shop. Similar to an accommodation establishment, you will need to assess the viability of this project according to factors that a crop farmer or egg business won’t need to consider.
- Location: Smallholdings are often ideal for this sort of thing, being peri-urban. This means chances are that you are close enough to a town centre or suburban area to make travel-time to and fro not too long. Plus, this means you should have access to at least basic shops and a petrol station relatively close by. But, along with location you need also to consider the state of your access roads. Some areas of smallholdings have sadly deteriorated to such an extent that ordinary sedan or hatchback vehicles will find the roads impassable. Unless your establishment is marketed as “rugged terrain”, it is not feasible to call yourselves a destination for all if your roads are not usable by sedan vehicles.
- Permits: Depending on the size of the establishment you set up, you will need building permits along with business rights. It is also recommended you join a tourism and hospitality organisation such as the Federated Hospitality Association of SA (Fedhasa) and the Tourism Grading Council. Liquor licenses are also important and can take longer than expected to be finalised, so you must factor that into your timeline when starting out. And, of course, establishments preparing and selling foodstuffs need to adhere to strict health and safety protocols.
- Water and electricity: While some types of businesses can get away with storing unpotable water, an accommodation or restaurant establishment must ensure a constant supply of clean drinking water, as well as water to maintain hygiene and cleanliness in your facilities. It is also recommended you investigate back-up power solutions so that your guests are never without electricity. South Africans might be accustomed to a two hour outage daily for load shedding but if you are after an international clientele, it will be more difficult to explain to them why they can’t boil their kettle at random times each day. Your kitchen must be built in a way that load shedding does not shut it down – gas stoves, open fires etc are the obvious solutions but you must also consider things like what happens to your extractor fans and access to hot water.
Kennels, Stables & Equestrian Businesses
This continues to be a popular option for making money on your property and, with the large-scale development of security complexes and apartments buildings, you can add dog parks to this niche as well.
- Location: There is no doubt that kennels have been popular on plots for decades because of the space in relation to the relative closeness to town. It is not too much of an upheaval for a townie to drive to the plots to drop off their dogs for the Easter weekend. But, as with other townie-geared plot businesses, you must consider the state of your roads for people not in bakkies. This will also be a factor for horse boxes and the transport of your horses. Stable yards have also been popular to run on plots for decades, again because of their proximity to the townie-riders.
- Noise: First, look into your by-laws on noise in your area, particularly for dog kennels, to make sure you are not breaking any laws. Then also consider generally the location at which you build the kennels in relation to your neighbours. Try as much as possible to build away from homes and offices.
- Waste management: Stable yards tend to produce large amounts of manure, with the concomitant possibility of flies. Make sure you have the means to deal with this. This can be a designated area (larger than you think) to start a compost heap, or you can contract out to a waste removal company once a week. Or, this could form a second stream of revenue in the sale of the manure.
Given the space on a smallholding, one could consider becoming a location for outdoor events. This could include concerts, rallies, markets, horse and dog shows, trail running and others.
- By-laws and permits: Most important will be to make sure you are not breaking any laws by hosting large numbers of people on your property. Your bylaws on noise will also be important. You will likely need to apply for certain permits, depending on the type and size of your event, and especially if you need to close any roads. Plan well in advance to ensure all your paperwork is correct and up to date.
- Parking and traffic control: If the majority of your land will be taken up by the event itself, you will come short on providing parking for your visitors. Make sure you have allocated adequate space for parking – you might even get your neighbours onboard and use their fields. Security here will also be something to consider. Where possible, create a throughfare in your parking lot to allow simple entrance and exit. Plans must be made to avoid creating major traffic delays in your area, both for your neighbours and the visitors themselves. Check in with your local policing authority, they are often required to assist with traffic control for large events.
- Water, waste and sewerage: Check the number of toilets you will require to service your visitors, and then add some. You can hire portable toilets so check in with those service providers regarding the requirements to prevent leakage and blockages. Waste in terms of rubbish and recycling will be a large issue to deal with. Ensure adequate rubbish bins during your event and efficient disposal of the rubbish after the event to prevent any lingering smells or pest problems.