Farmer Focus: Farming offers wealth of diversification options

I exhibited at a trade show recently at the Yorkshire Showground along with fellow Deliciously Yorkshire members. The innovation and passion of the individuals that have diversified, desperate to secure the future of their farms, never cease to amaze me.

See also: Read more from our other livestock Farmer Focus writers

From organic dairy ice cream and Icelandic-style “skyr” yoghurt to Yorkshire rapeseed oil in various flavours and dressings to beers, wine and charcuterie.

The product ranges are endless, yet they all have one thing in common – a passion for farming. And there are some incredibly savvy people behind these brands.

I have eluded before to the public perception that farming is little more than shovelling muck and requires only limited brain cells, but enterprises such as this just show the drive, determination, intellect and creativity that farming requires in order to ensure longevity.

And just to bang the drum again about a subject I have spoken about in the past, key to enterprises such as these is succession planning. Exciting, successful businesses and opportunities can be developed as part of a farming enterprise if the big S-word is broached around the family table.

Offspring may not want to be actively working on the farm (although some time on farm may be beneficial to set them in good stead for a good work ethic), but some amazing opportunities can be created by simply talking about the future and aspirations. What’s more, these opportunities can increase the profitability of the family farm.

No matter how big or small the farm may be, it is a goldmine full of opportunities and different paths to take with the right mix of passion, determination, innovation and intellect.

Exhibiting next to me was a man who made flavoured vodkas. On the other side was a wine man and opposite me one who produces daiquiris, so I had a jolly good time.

It pained me to hear him speaking fondly about his childhood on his family’s 1,416ha farm, only to tell me bitterly they hadn’t planned succession and the family had been embroiled in feuds after the wrong man was handed the farm and proceeded to sell all the land. This story is sadly all too common.

Anna Longthorp runs Anna’s Happy Trotters, a pork wholesale business supplying butchers, restaurants and farm shops with free-range pork from her family’s 2,100 breeding sows.