Most farmers and their families think about diversification at some point. Whether it is for need because the farm is not doing well or to support more than one family at the farm, it really is the million dollar (or pound) question.
It is something that I think about a lot for when the children are older and recently, I found an old notebook with a list I must have made from Mr Google so I thought I would share it with you.
I’ve written before about my farm diversification fails. I have accepted that breeding most animal is out because I just can’t bring myself to sell them. Ask me again when the goats have more kids because, with the Billy goat being ours rather than a stud, I am going to have to sell the kids.
Let’s just hope of you have a go, that you are more successful than me.
A farm shop. I would love to do this. I think location is key here. I can’t see much point in having a farm shop in the middle of nowhere. While I understand you may have some customers who would purposely come to you. I do think there is a lot to be said for passing trade.
A petting farm. This is also an attractive one for me-mainly because I already have my own personal petting farm. Having the general public get bitten, wander around parts of the farm that would be off limits (like our home and garden) and generally opening yourself up to anything has put us off but I am sure there are many farms that could do it and, the fact that many already have is proof enough, I suppose.
Pick your own. Whether it be fruit, vegetables, flowers or a mix of the three, this is a great idea and there is a well established pick your own farm near us that we visit quite regularly. The children love it.
A cafe. I have seen some farms that open cafes without a farm shop and this is a great idea if you enjoy baking and cooking (and are good at it).
Fisheries. I feel leisure activates are a good idea for diversification as it seems many people have a large disposable income for leisure. If times get tough though, it is usually leisure pursuits that are cut back first. If you have ponds already, this might be worth a try.
Opening up a livery yard is a popular one. Horses are another example of a leisure pursuit which people are crazy about. There are downfalls again like buildings needing planning permission for change of use from agriculture because, probably due to the leisure element, horses are not classed as agriculture. You also have the problem of people potentially walking all around your farm but a good option nevertheless.
Glamping is really popular at the moment. Either in dramatic tents or done up caravans or shepherds huts. People like to feel they have ‘roughed it’ on a farm but with all the luxury of every day life.
Flower growing. I recently did a Women In Farming piece on two sisters who have started their own flower farm and I think it sounds lovely.
A butchery. If you have livestock this is a great idea as you are basically cutting out the middle man. You could sell your produce direct to the consumer and provide provenance of where their food comes from. If you are opening a farm shop too, even better.
Carvan site or store. If you have an area tucked away, caravan storage is a good option and one which you would not need much input but lets face it, they are not the prettiest thing to look at and you would have to work out a system for people to pick them up and drop the off at all times of the day and night.
Christmas trees-either growing your own or buying them in at the end of November. Many auction markets sell trees in the run up to Christmas so it is worth having a look in to. Again, I think passing trade would need to be thought about here and heady advertising.
Turkeys. I have looked into this many times but still not taken the plunge. Every time I think it would be a good idea-even just for us, I think about the lovely Jade at Out and About Poultry who spends the weeks running up to Christmas plucking.
Pumpkin patches are big business now. Halloween is an event like never before in the UK and, if you have the right land, it is a good idea or, follow in the footsteps of other farms where pumpkins are bought in and passed of as home grown-I know. This is another one where I always seem to think of it too late.
Cattery/ kennels. People go on holiday and need a place for their beloved pets to stay. You could even offer boarding for chickens, rabbits and other small animals.
Holding Car boot sales is an option but heck with your local council for the different licences you may need.
A maze of maize would work if you had a farm shop or pick your own business and you could charge an entrance fee for that.
A country track for horse riding or bikes (obviously not both if the bikes are of the motor variety).
Weddings are big business and many farms have converted barns to hold receptions but even if you don’t have that kind of space, you could start a hire business-hay bale hire, hog roasts-anything you think could lend itself to a nuptial cerebration.
Dog walking is also big business so a private dog walking area or agility course could work.
If your fields are adjacent to busy roads or motorways, you could seek advertising for banners.
Fitness is a great option too so an off-road cross country track, agility course (dogs and humans could come together!) or even renting off a bit of field to a personal trainer and providing old tractor tires could work.
Have you tried anything that has worked? I would love to hear about them. Now what shall I try first?