As more and more city people consider moving to regional areas, encouraged by the remote working opportunities provided through COVID 19, many are considering buying a rural property and escaping to the country.
For many, 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 if people do not have the skills and knowledge to look after their land and animals properly, the great Aussie dream could 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 and contains a wealth of resources for new and prospective rural residents.
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," senior land services officer at Local Land Services, Peter Evans said.
"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 said 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," Mrs Crowe said.
"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.
"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 the confidence to establish a mixed beef, poultry and apiary enterprise on 33 hectares at Berry in NSW.
Mr King said that when they moved from Sydney five years ago it was their first venture into farming and they had lots of problems.
"It has been a steep learning curve and Local Land Services has been an enormous help," 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."
The Rural Living Handbook is available to read or download online, and from selected Local Land Services regional offices.
Another new resource for rural property owners is an online information hub called 'Every Bit Counts', specifically aimed at 'blockies' and small area farmers.
- Due to COVID 19, Local Land Services offices are currently open by appointment only.
- Visit: www.lls.nsw.gov.au