Could your farm make you extra money? Will Wallis has some ideas to help boost your income
It’s no secret that today’s agricultural economy is somewhat volatile. Technological innovation and international market competition mean that many of Britain’s farmers are having to find new ways to boost their income streams.
There are numerous ways in which to diversify to provide such revenues, but the majority of projects can require significant investment. A large vineyard, for example, could set you back hundreds of thousands of pounds and you really have to consider if the juice is worth the squeeze…
However, with a bit of thought and clever marketing, there are some lucrative opportunities that will see the pennies roll in, not out.
Weddings, festivals, wild camping and other tourism ventures can all be held on farmland or in disused buildings and can yield significant revenue. The cost to the farm will depend how you want to market the new venture. Some clients will be quite content with the topping of a field or creating a new access route while, if you want to be high end, spending money on updating a Tithe Barn or putting in a toilet block will be expensive.
The UK wedding market is a £10bn industry and, with only 27% of couples choosing a church location, alternative venues are hot property. Farm weddings can offer flexibility and are proving popular as couples look to create their own bespoke wedding days.
Or how about a festival? You don’t need to think Glastonbury. The ‘micro festival’ has swept the UK and is here to stay. Be it beer, food, cheese or music, there are festivals aplenty attracting manageable crowds of just a couple of thousand.
Wild camping is a growing phenomenon as city folk look to escape the modern world. The great thing about wild camping for landowners is that very few facilities need to be provided, meaning expenditure can be minimal.
Planning or permitted development?
Is planning permission required? In some cases, planning may not even be needed under the ‘28-day rule’. The rule is a form of permitted development, as stated in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015. It allows land and buildings to be used without planning permission for no more than 28 days in any calendar year and allows for the siting of moveable structures – for example, marquees, tents, shepherd’s huts and so on.
Our advice, as always, is to seek guidance from your local planning authority and land agent.
Get your project paid for
Not all these projects are entirely without significant costs and naturally this can be off-putting, but there are grants available to get you off the ground. Under the Rural Development Programme for England, there is £138m available via the LEADER scheme to support farmers investing in a project between 2015-2020 and is a hugely underused resource.
Needless to say, there are certain criteria that need to be met for funding. Projects that create jobs, boost rural tourism and grow the rural economy are considered favourably. We often provide advice on where to seek funding, whether by grants, finance through our AMC agents or other lenders.
Fail to prepare… prepare to fail
Diversification should not be done on a whim; you must consider the implication a new venture might have on your existing enterprise. Ask yourself:
Remember, from tourist spots to wedding venues, not every farm, nor everyone, is suited to these types of diversification and a structured business and marketing plan is key before you say “I do”. However, with the right advice and approach, you might just live happily ever after.