Oxford Farming Conference 2014: Agri-tourism revenue predicted to overtake farming incomes

The profits from farm diversification could overtake farming profits within 10 years, predicts Nuffield scholar and farmer Caroline Millar, at the Oxford Farming Conference.

She has three luxury hideaways  for couples looking for privacy, peace and pretty scenery on Balkello farm, a few miles north of Dundee. She and  husband Ross run a mixed arable, sheep and beef business.

Income from the hideaways, at £140,000  a year,  exceeds the revenues from the farm’s arable and livestock businesses and occupies only 0.6% of their land.

And the positive impact on the local rural economy is significant too, with the tourists that visit her hideaways also enjoying  food and entertainment in the local area.

Several factors could push farming businesses to diversify into agri-tourism, according to Ms Millar. She sites CAP reform, high land prices, limited availability of land, low returns on traditional farming in relation to capital, succession challenges with farmers living longer and young generations wanting to make their mark as important influencers.

Don’t underestimate the value to people of an authentic experience outdoors with fresh air involving local food and drink and interaction with a real, live farmer,  Ms Milar said.

Agri-tourism delivers enormous financial benefits to the farming and rural economy but it can also cascade a positive story and profile of British farming at home and overseas. She said:

 “We welcome hundreds of non-farmers every year, who all leave with some understanding of the way food is produced and the role that farmers play in protecting the natural environment.”

For more on this topic

Read how other farmers have set up successful farm stay businesses:

How to provide the perfect farm holiday welcome

How to provide the perfect b&b breakfast

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