Farm Diversification

Whitegate Farm Shop © Copyright Richard Law

Many of our clients at Land and Heritage are farmers and landowners dealing with the myriad of day to day issues involved with managing their land.  For many years we have helped farmers with agri-environment schemes and then more recently with all of the planning requirements of farm diversification and development in rural areas.   We have previously discussed the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS),the planned replacement for Countryside Stewardship, but with all eyes on Brexit that scheme is still vague and years away.

A recent farming diversification report by NFU Mutual showed that currently 66% of all farms have diversified in some way or other away from traditional agriculture, and that 22% of all farm income is derived from such enterprises.  For 23% of farms, the income from their non-agricultural activities is higher than their farming income.  So this is a very significant sector which is about to be given an enormous boost as farmers look to replace their loss of income as the Basic Farm Payment subsidy comes to an end.

Looking at the farm diversification figures in more detail we see that by far the commonest form of diversification is letting farm buildings for non-agricultural use.  This is a ‘no brainer’ for most farms but may already have reached its peak as all easily accessible buildings are already let.  Renewable energy generation is the next largest sector which will continue to grow rapidly with or without direct government support.

Rural business enterprises working from converted farm buildings

Sport and recreation form around 14% of diversified enterprises. While traditional country sports may come under tighter regulation in the future, the scope and demand for other activities is growing. Surprisingly the survey found that tourist accommodation and catering is still limited to a minority of farms, but the market for short lets, glamping, outdoor weddings and events continues to expand rapidly.  Eco tourism is developing in those fortunate parts of the country where visitors are able to find a decent amount of wildlife.  As long-haul holidays become less environmentally acceptable, the demand will grow for great experiences close to home.

Devon Yurt, Borough Farm, Lifton, copyright Julia Martin

The most difficult decision to make is to choose the right enterprise; location, and site suitability are key but where will the necessary skilled staff come from to make the business a success?  If you are considering any form of new farm activity, you can come and talk to our staff at this years Farm Business Innovation show at the NEC on the 6th and 7th of November.  We will be at Stand FR 670.

The Farm Business Innovation Show is the UK’s leading event for farmers, landowners, estate owners, and rural businesses to find all the tools, resources and inspiration needed to diversify their businesses and increase their income. Interest in this year’s show has been higher than ever with over 500 exhibitors and a range of keynote speakers over two days.  Well worth making the trip to Birmingham.

Entry to the show is free and tickets can be obtained here.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Simon Humphreys