After launching the new rural business magazine in early 2019, the team at Farm Diversity have spoken to many farmers up and down the country who have taken a successful leap into diversification.
We’ve heard from people setting up glampsites, education establishments and even wedding venues. The diversification projects support the farming side of the business and provide an additional stream of income – particularly valuable when times are tough in farming.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all been plain sailing for those diversifying their rural businesses – Farm Diversity features warts-and-all case studies of people who have worked hard to overcome adversity and reap the rewards.
Celia Gaze takes us through her often frustrating and sometimes downright scary journey of the diversification process. Celia went from struggling to pay a huge VAT bill in 2014 to winning North West Wedding Venue of the Year (Countryside) at the Wedding Industry Awards. Her advice includes doing your research: “There is a lot of support out there for diversification and it’s about knowing who to contact, what to expect and how to get through the diversification maze which I suppose is exactly the purpose of this magazine.”
Fir Tree Fishery CIC
Martin Taylor’s family have gone from growing Christmas trees to providing an accessible leisure facility – and onto educating young people with special educational needs. He told us about how to approach a variety of funding sources on each step of the diversification process to make your dreams a reality and really give back to the community. Martin said: Martin said: “It wasn’t an easy route to go down – we had to do a lot of work with planners, developers and funders initially. But now we’re really giving back to the community. We have a number of tutors and specialist educators now and many of our trainees go straight into jobs, or into full-time education.”
The Owd Barn
Farm diversity has been on the agenda here for 30 years, when the Ashcroft family opened a farm shop. Since then, the retail and dining business has been built up and now the barn offers over 65 table covers in its tearoom, alongside farm produce, furniture, gifts and county clothing for sale in the shopping areas. Helen Charlesworth, who is the daughter of the farm’s owners, told us: “The shops became back-up for the farm as it’s not always a reliable source of income. We had a good year in 2018 thanks to the warm weather. As we’re on moss land the soil kept its moisture and we achieved good prices. But it’s not like that every year!”
Hartley Court Farm
Diversification into different farming practices, crops and animals is also featured in our magazine – James and Lucy Hewison are a great example of this. They’ve been rearing a herd of Boer goats and are among farmers trying to boost the trade of goat meat in the UK. Lucy said: “Farmers across Britain are always having to think of ways to create other sources of income, and we’ve got four children, so we’re always thinking about farming for the future. I came across an article about goat rearing around the same time as I was due to leave my job as a teaching assistant in a local primary school, and it seemed the perfect way to use our traditional farm buildings.
“We knew a lot about cows, sheep and horses, but absolutely nothing about goats. So, it’s been a very steep learning curve!”
Gilli and Glen Allingham diversified from potato and cereal farming into growing garlic. They then diversified further by creating a range of garlicky food products that can be ordered online. It all began when the Scottish Agricultural College was looking for farmers to take part in crop diversity trials, and garlic was suggested. Gilli said: “I could see potential in the unique story we could create by growing garlic in the north of Scotland. Garlic is like a difficult onion! It can’t flourish in ground that onions have grown in previously due to an increased risk of fungal disease. We were lucky that the soil in Nairn was fertile, and it hadn’t been tainted by onions.” The Really Garlicky Company was launched in 2001 and has gone from strength to strength.
More information here: https://www.farmdiversity.co.uk/blog/farm-diversity-magazine-experiences