How to approach diversification on your farm

Monday, 18 March 2019

Blandford Monitor Farm shared their top tips on how to get the most out of diversification activities.

The farmer's perspective

Nick Bragg farms in partnership with his wife Claire, from Frogmary Green Farm, South Petherton. His top six tips for successful diversification activities are:

  1. Team is key - family, staff, consultants, architect and bank manager
  2. Don’t underestimate the impact on your own time
  3. Be ready for delays, changes to plan and extra costs from the planning process 
  4. Consider your cash-flow management and allow contingency
  5. Enjoy your project. Without passion, it won’t happen
  6. Have an off-farm hobby for pressure release

Arable and poultry businesses are at the core of Nick’s farm, but he has diversified to include potato storage, an AD plant site, cookery school, conference centre, wedding venue and an outdoor schools classroom.

Nick and Claire’s is a story of success, testament to their hard work and planning.

The land agent

Land agent Paul Tory's advice is: “There are a lot of questions to consider when you’re thinking about diversifying. Why are you doing it? Have you got the skills you need? Will the risk match the reward? You can’t underestimate the importance of very thorough planning.”

The bank manager

When it comes to presenting a business plan, banker Victoria Read emphasised it was quality not quantity that counted. Four pages covering all the essential elements of a project were better than 40 with incomplete areas. It's particularly important to stress-test any figures, to see how viable the plans are.

Options for the Monitor Farm hosts

Father-and-daughter Monitor Farm hosts James and Georgie want to explore how to make more out of a redundant dairy unit. The unit, at Rawston Farm near Blandford, is a mix of old and new architecture, some of which may be listed, with access and footpath issues.

Different options for James and Georgie include an abattoir, farm safari park centre, storage, farm education centre, dog exercise centre, holiday lets or re-development to residential lettings owned by the farm.

A final word...

Philip Dolbear, AHDB’s Knowledge Exchange Manager, said: “While diversification can be a useful addition to a business, it is important not to lose focus on the core business. Sometimes more attention to detail and a small increase in performance of what’s already there can be just as valuable as a new project.”

Information and resources on changing your business, including options for diversification, can be found in the new business planning area of the AHDB website