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How staycations could be a diversification boost for farmers

View profile for Paul Burkinshaw
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How staycations could be a diversification boost for farmers

Unforeseen events, such as the fall out from the coronavirus pandemic, are often a catalyst for change. Even with the roll out of vaccines, one change that is likely to be with us for some time is the increase in people holidaying within the UK.

Diversification of farming units is being encouraged. According to government figures 62 per cent of UK farmers will have to diversify to create a dependable income in light of increased energy costs, market fluctuations, the clamour for lower food prices and the variation to the subsidies regime following Brexit. In traditional farm units, profit margins are tight. Steps forward the government. It’s proposed “Build Back Greener” planning reforms aim to protect bio-diversity, support environmental protection and attract more people to the countryside to encourage farmers to accelerate diversification with small or more significant ventures. Therefore farmers need to work to embrace both planning reforms and the new subsidies regime. The policies appear to dovetail with the mantra of providing public monies to those who provide public good.

Defra suggests that half of Britain’s 57,000 farms have already introduced some form of diversification by way of alternate crops, livestock and accommodation or entirely new opportunities such as food processing and clothing. The planning proposals suggest a less bureaucratic approach to larger projects such as sophisticated glamping sites, rural and business offices or self-storage, holiday cottages and even music festivals all of which currently require significant investment in the planning process.

Diversification has become an industry in its own right, running alongside traditional farming. The Farm Business Innovation Show, held annually, celebrates the diversity of opportunity available. From fresh milk vending machines in supermarkets to Icelandic style sauna facilities all manner of ideas and opportunities can be explored. Grasping these opportunities requires a strong will and significant support, just like any other business diversification. However, the majority of farmers do have access to land agents, accountants or specialist solicitors. Whilst nobody wants to pay professional fees, there is a time and a place to do so. Ventures need to be investigated, costed and be tax efficient. The support networks are there. The result is the delivery of a project which encourages visitors to leave the city and venture out into the countryside.

As a country we are all lucky that the countryside is effectively on our doorstep if we can only be bothered to look. So, as farmers diversify within the countryside we should all be encouraged to get out there, to hear it, to smell it and enjoy it while supporting our farming communities.

Contact our specialist agricultural team if you are considering diversification projects as we can assist at various levels, whether commercial appraisal of options or detailed planning and execution of specific plans.

Our articles are intended for general information purposes only and are not a substitute for professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. We are always very happy to discuss any plans, issues or concerns you may have and to clarify how we might be able to help. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.