Changes are coming to the farming sector, and those rural businesses who are looking forward will be the ones that not only survive but prosper, according to Richard Corbett of Roger Parry & Partners. Many industries will face large-scale changes post-Brexit, and for farm-based businesses, diversification is key.
The most recent Farm Business Survey by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that 38% of farms in Wales and two-thirds of farm businesses in England have diversified. But, this means that a significant number — more than half — still haven’t. This is understandable since not all farmers are ready to face the need for diversification, but “those farm businesses that are prepared… will be the most resilient… [and] be best placed to take advantage of any future opportunities,” according to Corbett.
There are many opportunities for diversification in the UK, such as forestry. New demand is being driven by Biomass heating systems and multi-fuel household stoves, according to Corbett. And owners of woodland could see a profit by taking advantage of Government grant schemes for felling and replanting.
Additionally, weddings are another great way to diversify with converted bars, or simply a field, now proving popular alternatives to a church. In fact, only about 27% of couples now choose a religious building, according to Corbett.
There are also many other popular ways to diversify, including energy, poultry and free range egg production and brewing.
In order to make these changes, Corbett calls for decisiveness, skill development and financial investment. Farm businesses need to look at their entire model and decide how to improve its profitability.
Farming businesses should not diversify without careful thought, however, as “diversification has to be well planned and well-resourced so as to add to, rather than distract from, the core farming enterprise,” Corbett says.
Roger Parry & Partners is a member of the National Farmers Union’s Rural Surveyor’s Panel and as such have endorsed a new series of podcasts by the NFU that aim to help farmers diversify. These have covered topics such as insurance and tax, as well as diversifying into brewing, distilling, cafes and, of course, farm shops.