More than three-quarters of those surveyed expect to adopt new enterprises – indeed several have already done so – and more than half anticipate making major capital investments.
“I’d prefer to diversify if possible,” says Andrew Kerr. “The trouble is that to do anything properly tends to soak up time.”
Non-farming activities already account for half Simon Porter’s income, and Jamie Rogers foresees further barn conversion to provide a shop and showroom for the fabrics side of his business.
Robert Ramsay says he is well down the housing road, as is Eric Haggart who is in the process of building lodges on the farm. Nick Davidson also believes he has potential housing development sites within his steadings.
John Best is diversifying into paintballing and compost-making, and Ian Brown expects that upgrading his renewable fuel boiler to heat the business park will be a big spend.
Mark McFerran started a self-storage business on the farm six months ago and is buying property to let. He also plans an art gallery and workshop.
Andrew Cooke now runs an on-line business selling Japanese food and tea.
For others farming still accounts for their main outlays. David Pettitt and William Russell both say they hope to buy land.
Mike Cumming has just built a new £100,000 cold store and Richard Payne has put in a new grain store to avoid storage/drying charges. But he is also investing in corporate entertainment facilities.
Tim Hardstaff is having to invest in a grain and potato store due to the loss of other buildings, and the nitrate directive is forcing Graham Furey to install slurry storage.
For Willie Porter and son James the main outlay will be more tunnels for their expanded their soft fruit enterprise, “We’re unable to market unless we can guarantee quality,” explains James.
And for the first time since the 1970s Charlie Edgley has just bought two new tractors. “We’re changing brand to improve reliability – hopefully!” he says.
TACKLE IS TOP OF SAVINGS HIT LIST
When it comes to making savings machinery is by far first choice. But cultivations and staffing are also high on the agenda.
The priority for Robert Stevenson is energy- and machine-efficient cropping with less reliance on chemicals to cope with weed problems.
“Continuous wheat does bring grassweed control problems,” acknowledges Charlie Edgley.
“I have sold almost all our un-needed machinery, and am making use of FYM and broiler litter to save fertiliser,” says Mark McFerran.
Keith Snowball is also making more use of available manures. “And hopefully with more break crops herbicides may be reduced,” he comments.
Jim Goddard plans more use of contractors and Andrew Kerr stresses that rents must fall further.
Others, for example Messrs Porter and Shaw, say they aim to trim across the board.
But for Jamie Rogers that is a particular challenge. “I can’t work out how to do it. Going to contractors is probably cheaper, but then I’d struggle to justify the one staff member essential for estate maintenance.”
Eric Haggart is more resigned. “Every saving we make ultimately ends up in someone else’s pocket.”
For the Cockayne brothers there is a simple answer: “Use immigrant labour and eat gruel.”