Diversification is an increasingly popular option among farming communities across the country. The term typically refers to a process whereby new business activities are added to traditional farming practices, in order to develop new sources of income. According to the government, currently around half of all UK farms practice diversification in some form or another in their farming business, and this brings in an average of £10,400 in additional revenue per farm.
When it comes to diversifying, there are a number of different options available. For example, one option is to consider exploring other forms of agricultural products, such as alternative livestock or non food crops, as well as the so-called “agritourism”.
Whilst this can be a complex process, and is by no means guaranteed to increase returns, diversification can also undoubtedly be both rewarding and worthwhile. When considering whether diversifying is right for you and your agricultural business, there are a number of key factors to take into consideration. For example, you’ll need to think about what impact this might have on your existing farming activities. Perhaps most importantly, is taking the time to plan and establish how much the start-up costs of any new venture are likely to be, and whether this can feasibly be offset by the potential gains you stand to make.
Alternative crops and livestock
If you’re considering diversifying into alternative crops, you need to consider not only the cost of ground preparation and planting, but also the cost of machinery, as this will likely be one of the most significant expenditures you’ll face. However, it’s worth noting that there are cost-saving options available. A number of agricultural retailers like Cornthwaite Agricultural specialise in used agricultural machinery. Furthermore, if you’re considering growing energy crops, you may also be able to take advantage of available grants to help you get established. Under the Energy Crops Scheme you may be entitled to energy crop establishment grants which can cover 50% of the set up costs for establishing energy crops such as willow and ash.
When it comes to diversifying into alternative livestock, the initial start-up costs can also be significant depending on the facilities you already have access to. Each livestock species will have its own unique requirements when it comes to basic care and welfare. You’ll likely have to consider constructing additional buildings in order to ensure they’re properly housed . For more information about the different types of alternative livestock and their typically requirements take a look at this handy guide, which has some great information about the practicalities of this kind of diversification.
Interestingly, a growing number of farmers are also choosing to diversify out of agriculture and explore alternative sources of income. By converting their old farm buildings for residential use, and as such there are a number of buildings and construction opportunities that can also be explored. According to The Farmer Guardian, it was revealed at a recent national rural planning conference that the number of planning development opportunities have increased significantly for famers since the publication of the national planning policy framework, over two years ago. The introduction of these new rules mean that it’s now possible for buildings originally built for agricultural purposes to be converted for residential use, without the requirement for a full planning application to be submitted. Consequently, some experts have suggested that now is the perfect time to think about converting old and unused agricultural buildings.
Another growing market is the agritourism industry, and a number of individuals are also choosing to convert their existing farm buildings into additional businesses, such as farm shops or tourist accommodation. If you do decide to go down this route then it’s worth being aware that assistance can also be gained from companies specialising in rural development, such as Rural Solutions.
Hopefully this rough guide will have provided you with some food for thought with regards to whether diversification could be for you. You may also wish to research the various funding options available for yourself. For example, the Rural Development Programme for England provides support for rural communities in various ways, including providing funding for business development, to find out more, take look at this handy website.