Get Help From on Farm Diversification

IF ANYONE doubted that diversification would become a fundamental business strategy for mainstream farm businesses, they need only visit this year”s Smithfield Show to see how things have changed.

Here on the ground floor, in the midst of a sea of farm machinery and pedigree livestock, is a prominent area devoted to helping farm businesses plan their long-term survival in a farming world that looks increasingly unpredictable.

Whether it is alternative crops, adding value to meat or milk through on-farm processing, converting barns to offices or starting up a leisure or tourism enterprise, farmers are flocking to alternative enterprises with a vengeance.

A 2003 survey by Lloyds TSB – the main sponsor of the Farm Options area – found that two-thirds of farmers in England and Wales intended to set up a diversified enterprise on their farms over the next five years. Currently, these enterprises account for just 8% of farm income, so big growth is on the cards.

And the arrival of the mid-term review of CAP reform will only serve to speed this process. Post-CAP reform, farm businesses will have to look at all their options to maximise profitability, and assets will have to be worked harder. Knowledge of the increasing environmental, welfare and social burdens placed on farmers will be as important as traditional production and husbandry skills.

Farm Options aims to provide a venue where farmers can find information on all aspects of diversification. There will also be a central information point where visitors can be guided to the relevant specialist within the feature.

There are four areas:

 Business Planning;

 Led by Lloyds TSB, this is the centre of the feature. Find out how diversification projects can be financed, what tax planning is necessary and what changes might be needed to your business if you plan to find new income streams.

Companies and organisations include: 101 Media (website design), Acorus Rural Property Services (consultants), ADAS Management Consultancy, BIAC, Farmplan Computer Solutions (Hylton Nomis diversification and rural business software), LAMIS ( Land management information), Lloyds TSB, Strutt and Parker (property consultancy) and Cluttons (property consultancy).

Leisure and tourism;

 Organisations and businesses that specialise in providing advice to farmers wanting to enter the vast ,leisure and tourism market will be on hand. Whether it is farm parks, caravan sites, shoots or accommodation, they are experts in gaining planning consent, marketing the new enterprise or managing the financial side of the project.

 Companies and organisations include: Calor, Camping and Caravanning Club, Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, National Farm Attractions Network (farm-based attraction advice) and Omar Woodbury Homes (timber lodges)

 Rural Food Chain

One key area of diversification is the drive to add value to existing farm production, whether it is producing icecream rather than milk or chops and sausages rather than livestock. It will be spearheaded by the English Farming and Food Partnerships (an organisation set up to encourage collaboration between farmers and the food chain) and the Food Chain Centre, which aims to promote efficiency and good practice throughout the food chain, and will look at all forms of direct marketing.

Companies and organisations include English Farming and Food Partnerships, EuroCryor (refrigerated display units), Food Chain Centre, John Bowler (Free-range egg franchise), Petit Forestier (refrigerated van rental) and Innes Walker Fish Harvester (fish farming).

 Environment and conservation;

Cross-compliance, increased access to the countryside and the Entry Level Scheme will almost certainly mean more farmers having to raise their environmental standards Companies and organisations include:

The Environment Agency, Proven Engineering (wind turbines), Fresh Start (encouraging new farmers) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (rural consultants).