My friends aren't unique - there's a whole little economy of small-holders, making a living by trading with each other, supplemented by odd bits of casual work (such as working on Harleys). They also support each other - one of their neighbours was hit by a car whilst I was there - and everyone was rallying around to help tend his animals whilst he was act of action.
You could call it a kind of localised communalism or mutual self-help. It's not necessarily about hippies or townies fleeing to the country. Most of them seem to be ordinary people with connections to the area - possibly returning after some time away - or after farming has skipped a generation in the family. They are not middle class drop-outs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. They just want to promote a traditional way of life and do something 'real'.
There's an ideology that goes with this that's suspicious of big business, mass production and factory farming and promotes local small producers, 'real' products and low-intensity agriculture. The Fens is an area where cheap Eastern European casual labour in agri-industry is well established so it could easily be xenophobic or racist - but actually it isn't. Animosity is mainly directed at the supermarkets who are forcing the race to the bottom. There's a definite disdain though for a generation of 'native' locals who are prepared to go along with this, and lack the gumption to do something for themselves.
It's not a lifestyle for everyone. Politically it isn't a viable alternative on any meaningful scale to the rat race. But I'm damn sure that my friends get more satisfaction from their work than I am getting from mine at the moment.
* Every time I visit I'm reminded of the scene in Easyrider when they stop over at farm to fix a puncture and share a meal with the family. Wyatt turns to the farmer and says: '