Recent decades have seen a gradual erosion of farming incomes across the UK due to falling commodity prices and changes to the subsidy regime. This study examines what resources farmers are able to access informally and how this ‘social capital’ is generated and maintained in farming communities. Using a conceptual framework based on Bourdieu's conceptualisations of social and cultural capital, this study explores the evolving informal exchange relationships between farmers in a case study of Upper Deeside, Scotland. We find that although cultural capital is important for accessing social capital, the technological treadmill characteristic of ‘good farming’ creates a disincentive for informally sharing machinery amongst large-scale farmers. However, social capital remains an important resource for smaller scale farmers, particularly in terms of their access to labour. We conclude by suggesting that, far from being a low-cost means of facilitating community economic development, increasing the level of social capital will be difficult in communities where labour is a scarce or expensive resource.