Published on 12th December, 2017
According to DEFRA statistics, 62% of British farms now have some form of diversification, equating to a third of all farming income (£580 million in 2015/16). In fact, for 25% of farmers, revenues from diversifications even exceed those of their original business.
There are many ways in which you can diversify your business, and you may need to think fairly laterally. If you are unsure of what you can do with your farmland, here are a few ideas to get you started.
Using your skills and knowledge base off the farm…
You, or a member of your family, will probably have a lot of experience on pruning and treating old or damaged trees. Hiring out your skills as a tree surgeon can provide a steady stream of income.
Have you been in the business a long time, or even grown up within the industry? Public speaking is a great way to reach out to local communities to impart your knowledge can raise awareness and get people interested in the farming industry.
Adding value to your produce
Consider producing products such as; cheese, cream, butter and ice cream from your milk. Whether it’s just to keep for yourself and family and friends, or to sell on through farmers’ markets and shops, or directly to pubs, restaurants and cafes – after the initial start-up costs, it can provide a great income.
Alternatively, butcher your meat and sell through farm shops and markets. By selling directly to the farm shops, you cut out the third party costs (or the “middle men”) who are then guaranteed locally farmed and quality meat (and you get the best deal).
Consider your outbuildings
You may find that some of your outbuildings and farmland can be transformed into something else such as a kennel or cattery. This is a great way to gain extra income, especially good if you have a background with animals. Similar to this, you could use the outbuildings for stables for local horse owners who need their own space.
Alternatively, if you don’t want the care of extra animals on your plate, hiring out your outbuildings to local communities for craft workshops is a way to get people visiting the farm.
Venture into leisure and tourism
Farm stays are one of the most obvious tourism ventures; by opening your house to guests, it gives you the opportunity to earn some extra income whilst still being at home.
If you go down the stables route, you could then develop part of your farm into a riding school. Horse riding is a popular activity that can generate income, as well as even spark interest in the farm itself.
Opening your farm up to visitors is a good starting point for diversification. Offering guided walks in the area or creating public walking routes for ramblers, that are not intrusive can expand your farm and connections.
Diversification is not for everyone
For the farmer there are some risks with diversifying their business.
With significant investment required and challenges to overcome, the decision to diversify is one that should be considered carefully. Whilst diversifying sources of income can be a lifeline for some farms, it is not the answer for everyone.
Diversifying to save a declining business is a risky move and could result in neither business surviving long-term. Focus on getting your core business into the best possible shape before thinking about diversifying and you’ll see the pay off in the long-run.
When considering diversification, you should evaluate your assets, for example; the lack of infrastructure restricts tenant potential. National guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework requires local and neighbourhood plans to support diversified economic development.
The biggest risk of diversification is failure, however if it is well planned and you understand the market and are aware of its needs; learn about the product, its uses, and production; talk to other producers about problems, solutions, costs; and finally, secure suitable capital – you will have a robust business plan.
The Rural Enterprise Centre will provide the perfect venue for farmers undertaking knowledge transfer projects, research projects, advice and guidance and micro food and drink businesses looking to expand and grow.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got.
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