Sustainable diversification?

Zoe Brain
By Zoe Brain

September 2019

With almost half of the country's farmers having already undertaken some form of diversification, Rural surveyor Zoe Brain talks about key factors involved in the decision process.

Sustainable diversification?

Amid the uncertainties surrounding the future of the UK’s agricultural sector and with farmers’ margins being continually squeezed, an increasing number of farmers are diversifying away from their core farming enterprises in a bid to safeguard the long-term sustainability of their business and gain a reliable source of income.  

Over half of all UK farms now have developed some form of diversified activity in their farming business which brings in on average, an extra £10,400 of revenue per farm, according to Government figures.

Therefore, with possible declining direct support for many farms on the horizon, it is easy to see why diversification has become a tempting choice for farmers looking to develop their business and decrease their reliance on the volatilities of traditional agriculture. However, with significant investment required and challenges to overcome, the decision to diversify is not one that should be taken lightly.

Diversification on Trend   Opportunities to diversify are as limitless as farmers ambitions, however popular diversification ventures range from simple building lets, converting unused buildings, installing solar panels to generate green energy, rural tourism or weddings and events just to name a few.

So, what exactly should you consider before taking the plunge?

  • Utilise existing, underused assets
  • Use expertise from family & friends
  • Make the most of your skills
  • Distinguish local demand
  • Make use of grants
  • Analyse strengths and weaknesses
  • Take advantage of technological innovations
  • Be realistic
  • Take Inspiration
  • Undertake market research
  • Think like a customer

Hurdles to Success    With any business venture, they require time, investment, staff and inevitably new expertise. This means they have the potential to take farmers’ attention away from the day-to-day running of the farm and undermine the core business of agricultural production. Additionally, planning and regulatory issues can have a vast impact on deciding the best sphere outside of traditional farming practices.

What does the future hold?   With UK farmers bracing themselves for further hardships over the coming years, the willingness to embrace diversification opportunities has been heightened. Despite there being no guarantee that it will boost your farming business, it can be beneficial and rewarding in the long run.

It is important to remember that multilayered businesses can survive many more hardships than an enterprise reliant on a single income stream.

Rural surveyor Zoe Brain is based at our Burraton office, contact her on 01305 236570 or our rural professional team.  


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