I have been watching Our Family Farm Rescue with Adam Henson on Channel 5.
The show bills itself as farmers “risking it all in a fight for survival”, and watching people diversify to reduce their workload and financial stress has certainly struck a chord.
I find it interesting as my parents started an online meat sales business for our farm to sell my Oxford Sandy and Black pork, as well as our beef.
We made a meat store by emptying our cluttered old bulk tank room, and bought industrial freezers and fridges, as well as butchers’ tables and sinks.
The Food Standards Agency gave the meat store a food hygiene rating of 5 (that’s the best score, by the way!).
Like the families in the programme, we made the most of what the farm already had.
We started the business over lockdown and had a lot of interest, but sales have slowed and we have to think up new ways to advertise and make our products more appealing.
I’ve noticed more meat box schemes and farm shops appearing, giving the public more opportunity to buy directly from farms, be in contact with farmers, and know exactly where their meat comes from.
Building a customer base is hard, however, and some consumers, even though they say they love the idea of a small farm and local shop, will always head to the supermarket.
An honest debate needs to take place about how the UK wants its food produced.
Do we want entirely large, often indoor, uber-efficient farms which can compete on price with the “cheapest” food produced elsewhere in the world?
Or are we willing to pay a little more and support small, traditional family farms?
Diversification is a long-term trend, but it’s a shame an ever-increasing number of farmers need two businesses to make a profit, given that being a farmer is a hugely skilled, full-time job in itself.
Another TV presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, has clearly discovered this. He realised you have to be a mechanic, electrician, vet, agronomist, and potentially a shopkeeper.
There are many ways to run a meat sales business, I just hope we can find a way that is worthwhile for us, and convenient for our customers.