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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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Farm Diversification: Is It Love At First Sight?

What's so special about it?


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 19/02/2020 @ 8:00AM

My first thoughts on farm diversification were ''so what? Farmers are looking to earning an extra income on the side. Loads of people work from home!''. My second thoughts were no, it's different ...

It's not just about crops and livestock anymore. Farm diversification is a real thing in our rural communities!

It's not just about crops and livestock anymore. Farm diversification is a real thing in our rural communities!

photo by heiko janowski on unsplash

Farm diversification is about creating a new source of income using the assets of the farm. Those assets may be of all sorts which will vary from farm to farm and include:

  • Physical - the land

  • Financial - the ability to raise finances

  • Relational - embedded in a rural network

  • Personal - the knowledge and skills of the people

  • Animal - the livestock, and wildlife

So now I got interested, and thanks to Countryfile on the BBC as well as through my own network, I am having fun finding out the often weird, wonderful and wacky ways farmers have taken this brief and applied it to their business. Here are some examples and I’ll leave you to decide what is wonderful and what is wacky. What is definitely wonderful is seeing the human mind in full creative and free-spirited mode.

So, we have:

  • A snail farm in Aylesbury serving up escargot caviar

  • Creation of salt marshes and a wildlife reserve when sea wall breaches become hard to reverse

  • Outdoor bodybuilding using farm implements

  • A raw milk co-operative; not exactly milk-your-own, but take a trip to the farm and refill daily

  • A round barrow as an alternative depository for your cremated ashes

With so many options to choose from what makes a farmer choose one scheme over another?

Well the salt marsh may be making a virtue out of necessity, but the majority seem to be plucked out of the air. Some are obvious and give us a clue such as the bodybuilder farmer who looked as if he should be standing on the Atlas mountains holding up the world. No surprise that his second business was as a personal trainer using the farm tasks and implements in an outdoor gym.

"We all have a reason why we chose the business we did!"

Often it is hidden in memories from our childhood. It gives us our Emotionally Charged Connection® with our business. It’s what makes us fall in love with our business. With passion comes the drive and the willingness to take some risks, to put in the hours and to get up when we’ve been knocked down a few times. It’s also what inspires others to want to help us.

On the other hand, love and passion can make us blind to realities. Is this idea sustainable? Will it still seem like a wonderful idea when as with all love affairs you come off the fluffy pink cloud?

So, while holding onto your dream, do the business planning and check realities. How does this new venture fit into your overall business? What are you willing to risk? What are you willing to let go? Do the figures stack up? Are you really going to make enough money to make this sustainable? Are you really going to spend more of your time doing what you love? Are you taking your family with you, is it their passion too? Think of the farmer who has a passion to provide straight from the earth produce, but it’s his wife and children who pick up the role of shop assistants in the farm shop.

"So, my tip to farmers looking to diversify is this: be a visionary as well as a pragmatist!"

Follow your passions look at what really satisfies your soul and seek a way of turning that into a business. Then do your research and make sure that the others involved are there beside you.

Get some independent advisors to test out whether your plans are sustainable as well as how you manage the lean period before your new venture gains momentum. This can take some time. Remember that the idea was to save the farm, not lose it to some wild scheme

So, take it seriously, this is not a hobby! Oh, did I forget to mention the Goat Yoga? Yes really! A roomful of people doing yoga whilst the miniature goats from the farm get in the way. Apparently you feel fantastic afterwards.

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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