With Brexit approaching and changes to farm support looming, farmers are considering how to future-proof their farms. To provide advice and guidance, one of the UK’s best-known farmers, Jimmy Doherty, will be investigating different ways farmers can plan diversification activities to support their farms after Brexit.
Diversifying into non-farming activities can offer a lifeline for farms to remain viable and provide opportunities for family members to work in the business.
Mr Doherty has joined forces with rural insurer NFU Mutual to produce a diversification self-help series, delivered through five videos. He will explore the various aspects of planning and running a diversification venture alongside farming activities.
After taking on 100 acres of run-down land over a decade ago, Jimmy has developed a successful diversified farm including an award-winning restaurant, a nature trail, and a butterfly house. Across this site he also hosts numerous science events and food festivals.
According to Jimmy, if farmers have confidence in their abilities then the opportunities to diversify are endless. “Farmers already have a wide and impressive skillset,” he said. “I don’t know many people who can turn their hands to such a range of activities”.
Of his own venture he has said, “At Jimmy’s Farm, we’ve done everything – from rearing rare breed animals to hosting educational visits – but have had particular success with running events, such as weddings and festivals.
“My experience developing a visitor attraction and wedding venue has taught me that unless you have vast amounts of money, you can’t set up an all-singing, all-dancing wedding venue or festival straight away”.
He added, “Running an events space is a big commitment and responsibility and to have long-term success, your events need to be consistently special and run without a hitch, or your customers will leave dissatisfied.”
Jimmy advises farmers to begin planning by walking round their farm with a notebook to identify buildings, land and natural features that could lend themselves to a public-facing diversification.
Regarding farm diversification, Jimmy champions that “with some imagination, resilience and hard work, you can make a success of it”.