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Farming diversification

Now more than ever, farm diversification has become increasingly important as many farmers seek to supplement their income by exploring alternative revenue streams.

There are a wide variety of diversification options available to farmer’s, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. In this article we will explore some of the most popular farm diversification options, weighing up the pros and cons and potential income of each.

 
 

The main concern with diversification is that fact that in many cases it is not passive income and requires research, time, and management to run these additional enterprises. But they can provide significant and vital income and are worth considering.

Things to consider

  • Does the farm management team have the resources to do this or are they willing to bring on staff to manage the new enterprise?

  • As with many things in life, the amount of income that be generated from farm diversification is often about location, location, location. What is your location suitable for?

  • Have you considered the risks of bringing members of the public on farm as is often the case with diversification?

Common diversification options

Glamping

Glamping involves offering luxury camping experiences such as yurts, cabins, or bell tents on farm. It can provide a high-value source of income for farmer’s, particularly in areas of high demand. Accommodation can range from the most basic of shepherd’s wagons with a composting toilet all the way to fully serviced safari style tents. As such, investments and potential income will vary vastly. Assuming a good location with 3 mid-level pods, at £120/night with a 30% occupancy rate, an income of £39,420 could be achieved.


Milk vending machines

The option to install a milk vending machine at the farm gate allows customers to purchase fresh unpasteurised milk straight from the source. Average farm gate sales for a milk vending machine are around 80L a day, selling at £1.20/L could bring in a revenue of £35,000. This is a relatively low investment, low running cost option for dairy farms to increase revenue and extract more value from their raw product.


Caravan Storage

The domestic holiday market grew due to the impact of COVID 19 travel restrictions and increased in demand for caravan storage has been a consequence.

Depending on the level of security provided, and the location, average storage fees of around £500 can be charged to store a caravan for a year. Assuming 50 caravans stored, income of £25,00 could be achieved. Security investment would need to be considered due to high risk of caravan theft.


Fishing lakes

Carp fishing is a growing market, with many fishing lakes at full membership capacity. Fishing lakes generate income either through day ticket sales or renting the lake out to a fishing syndicate. As with anything, it isn’t as simple as it seems to set up a fishing lake, it will often require a specialist consultant to plan, execute, and stock the enterprise.

A 3–5-acre fishing lake can bring in over £25,000 in ticket sales.


Car boot sales

The British public love a bargain, leading to car boots sales being a common site in the countryside. A landowner is allowed to use open land for a car boot sale for 14 days a year without needing planning permission, this could be used to test the waters before committing to a more regular event. Assuming a charge of £12 per car with 150 sellers, with 14 car boot sales a year, an income of £25,000 could be achieved. Of course, parking attendants, litter pickers, and insurance must be factored in. There are also third-party operators looking to take on land for car boot sales if a more hands off approach is desired.


Renewable energy

Developing a solar farm on suitable land or rooftops can bring in guaranteed income streams for farms. One popular avenue is to lease the land to an established developer for secure long-term income. It can be quite controversial to take agricultural land out of food production, although some degree of grazing can occur underneath with sheep, but the financial returns seen are higher than agricultural margins. Average rents of £2,200/ha can be expected and secured over long term 30-year agreements.


Shipping container storage

With typical rents of £10/week, assuming 20 containers on a farm an income of £10,400 could be achieved. This a low maintenance, low-cost option to increase revenue. Some ground works may be required, and planning permission granted. With second hand containers costing in the region of £1,100, a return on investment could be seen in year 3.


As well as the more common diversification options, more unique farm diversification options have been explored by farmers with some setting up gyms in barns, starting PYO pumpkin fields for Halloween and maize mazes have also been a more common sight in the countryside. The possibilities are endless, but a full risk assessment and feasibility study combined with ROI calculations should be conducted before embarking on a diversification project. The potential to bring resilience and increase revenue are significant enough to consider what might work for you and your farm.


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