Farmers Weekly Diversification event – 27th February 2020

The first event of the series of three diversification events was held at Lakeland Farm Visitor Centre, in the Lake District, where Kerrie and Isaac Benson, who are third-generation National Trust farm tenants, focus on breeding award-winning Herdwick sheep and a herd of beef cattle.

Farm diversification event agenda:

09:15 – Registration and coffee

09:30 – Welcome from Suzie Horne, Farmers Weekly’s Business editor

09:40 – Welcome from our hosts. The story of the birth of Lakeland Visitor with Isaac and Kerrie Benson

10:10 – Evaluating the assets on your farm with Andrea Meanwell, Farming Officer, The Lake District National Park Authority

10:35 – Farm Diversification Story: Ireby Green farm café with John Wellbank, Ireby Green farm café

11:00 – Coffee & networking

11:20 – Farm Diversification Story: A cross generation farm diversification growing gracefully with Jane Lane, The Westmorland Family, Tebay Services

11:45 – Farm diversification Story: Dodgson Wood with John Atkinson and Maria Benjamin, Nibthwaite Grange Farm

12:05 – Panel discussion: Best way to fund your next Farm Diversification venture with moderator: Suzie Horne, Farmers Weekly’s Business editor, Andrea Meanwell, Farming Officer, The Lake District National Park Authority, Veronica Waller, Senior Project Manager, The Farmer Network Ltd and Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive, Cumbria Chamber of Commerce

13:00 – If you build it, they will come. Or will they? with Caroline Cooper, Customer Experience Specialist, Naturally Loyal

13:25 – Lunch and networking

14:10 – Farmers Weekly closing remarks and Lakeland Livestock Arena and Centre tour

If you have any issues that you might like us to discuss on the day, please click here to email us before the event and we’ll try to address them. Whether it’s planning, marketing, financing or acquiring new skills we are interested in your personal journey and challenges so please share them with us.

Diversification event speakers

Andrea Meanwell

Andrea Meanwell is the Lake District National Park Authority Farming Officer. She runs a hill farm in the Howgill fells in partnership with her son. She has written 4 books about hill farming and is the Cumbria Magazine farming columnist.

Kerrie and Isaac Benson

Isaac is a third generation Lake District Fell Farmer.

Due to farming changing he knew the importance of diversification. Working 2 farms and also on a building managed through grit and determination put himself in the position to build Lakeland Farm Visitor Centre.

Having 3 children, he wanted to provide security on farming for the next generation.

LFVC comprises of a farm shop, butchers, cafe (using our own meat, therefore adding value in our own product) demonstration area showcasing traditional farm activities like drystone walling and wool spinning and a show arena.

Veronica Waller

I work as a Senior Project Manager for the Farmer Network Ltd which is a not-for-profit organisation supporting farmers in Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales.  We offer our members a range of services and projects including fuel buying, training courses, help with applying for grants, knowledge transfer events, business clubs and projects designed to help young farmers develop their businesses.

I have worked for the Farmer Network for almost 10 years and have previously worked for the Leader programme, for our local Community Council on projects including the marketing of native breed lamb and for the National Farmers’ Union as a Policy Adviser.

John Atkison and Maria Benjamin

John Atkinson has farmed Nibthwaite Grange Farm his whole life, taking over from his father aged 20. It is primarily a beef and sheep farm, but since is partner Maria joined him on the farm in 2015, their business has expanded to include eco holiday accommodation, selling wool from their rare and native breed sheep and Jersey milk soap.

John worked for the National Trust for 25 years alongside running his farm. He is now a trustee of the Rare Breed Survival Trust.
Maria is from Scotland, but lived in London, where she gained a Masters Degree in Fine Art. Since joining John on his farm, she has put her energy into making the most of what the farm produces in an ethical and sustainable way, developing the diversification side of the business.

John Wellbank

John Welbank is a Rural Practice Chartered surveyor. For most of his professional career, he focussed on rural development issues both within the public and private sector. His main area of expertise is associated with all aspects of farm diversification from project development, planning and funding. In 2012 John and his wife Sylvia Welbank purchased Ireby Green Farm.

The farm was a typical 73 acre livestock farm with a small undeveloped touring caravan site, located on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Seven years on, the business is now a thriving tourism business with café, farm shop, plant nursery and forty pitch seasonal caravan site. The farm now employs over twenty staff year round and attracts over thirty thousand visitors a year.

Caroline Copper

Caroline’s business is Naturally Loyal, where she works with hospitality, leisure and tourism  business owners helping them to get more sales from their existing customers, so they make more profit. Caroline says “If you want to get more sales and make more profit start by looking after your existing customers. Creating loyalty isn’t about loyalty cards, it’s about creating a culture where everyone in the business is cared for and cares about delivering a memorable visitor experience which is reflected in the actions of everyone in the business.”

Caroline has featured in the Global Gurus Top 30 for Hospitality for the past 5 years, and recognised as a CX Influencer, being ranked #13 by Customer Experience Magazine in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the Customer Experience industry. She is a published author of ‘Creating Service Superstars’ and the ‘Hotel Success Handbook’ and a regular columnist for a number of online and print journals.

Suzanne Caldwell

Suzanne is Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, responsible for developing and managing the Chamber’s extensive business support offer as Cumbria Business Growth Hub. Over the last 8 years the Growth Hub has helped more than 7,500 small and medium sized businesses to grow and to improve their productivity, and over 2,700 people to look at starting in business for themselves, generating an estimated £252m in GVA.

Before joining the Chamber, Suzanne was an adviser and subsequently a senior manager with Business Link for Cumbria. Prior to this she worked in marketing and project management and has run her own business. Her husband is a retired game bird rearer from a family that’s been farming in Cumbria for at least 500 years, and both she and her husband have relatives farming in the county.

Suzanne has a BA in Industrial Economics from the University of Nottingham and an MBA from the University of Bradford Management School. She is a Chartered Marketer and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Jane Lane

Jane Lane, along with her sister Sarah, are shareholders in Westmorland Ltd which operates motorway service areas in Cumbria, Gloucester and Scotland.  Jane is responsible for the farming side of the business which supplies beef and lamb to Westmorland’s Cumbrian sites.  She also chairs the Family Board.

John Dunning

John began farming in 1956 and in 1972 he and his wife founded Westmorland Motorway Services and developed it over the following 40 years.

An ideas man and an entrepreneur, John has also made a significant contribution to the development of rural issues both within and outside Cumbria and is also a fount of knowledge on Cumbrian history.  He maintains a firm belief that, in an age when farming is facing long term recession, diversification of the economy is the principle means by which it can secure a stable future.  This is underpinned by a belief that there is no conflict between this change and the wider interests of landscape and wildlife conservation.

Alex McCoskrie

A graduate geophysicist and now Chartered Marketer, Alex has worked for the English Lake District World Heritage Site (WHS) since 2016, for the National Trust, Lake District National Park Authority and on behalf of the Lake District National Park Partnership.

His role involves building awareness of and knowledge of, and engagement with, the WHS by stakeholders locally, nationally and internationally. Previously he has worked in tourism development for a national park (Loch Lomond), marketing and communications for a world heritage site (Hadrian’s Wall) and as marketing director for the Lake District & Cumbria destination management organisation Cumbria Tourism.

Emma Winter

Emma has over 13 years of experience and provides advice to clients on all aspects of town and country planning, including the development potential of land and property in urban and rural areas. She provides strategic advice to clients in urban, rural and Green Belt areas to assist them in devising an effective strategy to maximising the potential of their property assets through the planning system.

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