19 October 2001

Diversity with a difference

FARM diversification is often touted as the solution to agricultures current woes, but the jury remains out as to its real long-term benefits.

However, two interesting properties currently on the market offer purchasers the chance to benefit from an alternative source of income that is not reliant on the vagaries of currency fluctuations and world commodity prices.

In East Sussex, Charles Clark & Co is selling an organic smallholding which includes an established farm shop that has been voted best organic farm shop in the country by the Soil Association.

Scragoak Farm, Brightling, near Robertsbridge, comes with a three-bedroomed agriculturally tied dwelling and four polytunnels used to grow the majority of the produce for the shop. Five acres of land is watered by a drip and sprinkler irrigation system.

The guide is set at £375,000, and, according to selling agent Guy Streeter, the shops turnover during the last three years has been in excess of £300,000. "This could be a good opportunity for somebody starting in agriculture, there is a lot of scope for further development."

Further north, FPDSavills is marketing a money-spinning Cheshire farmhouse and golf course for £2.5m.

Adlington Golf centre, near Macclesfield, was the brainchild of David and Sandra Moss who used part of the family farm to set up the operation in 1985. They are now planning a move to Canada to start a new enterprise.

Only 20 acres of the 125-acre site is taken up by the nine-hole par 3 course, the remainder is used for grazing but has planning consent for further expansion of the existing golf facilities. With a net operating profit of £176,000 last year, this equates to £9450/acre, a figure that selling agent Jeremy Rollason points out is a much better return than from agriculture.

He believes the course could be a sound investment for those with funds to re-invest. "This could be a good alternative to buying more farmland.

A golf course is only grass so a farmer should be able to handle the agronomy aspect, and geographically the location has a large customer catchment area."

But he cautions against producers rushing to build their own courses. "A similar scheme is not the solution for every farmer, they could end up putting good money after bad."

Facilities at the site include a floodlit 24-bay driving range and a profitable golf shop. The residence is a modernthree-bedroomed dwelling set in 2 acres of gardens. &#42