Farm diversification: Exploring new avenues for agricultural businesses - Paris Smith Skip to content

Elinor Davis | 12th September 2023

Farm diversification: Exploring new avenues for agricultural businesses


Elinor Davis | 12th September 2023

Farm diversification: Exploring new avenues for agricultural businesses

Farm diversification has become widespread as farmers look to increase their income and bring stability to their businesses.

Farm diversification: A key to sustainable agriculture

In this blog post, we will explore the concept of farm diversification, its benefits, various approaches farmers can take to diversify their farming activities and possible barriers to overcome.

Understanding farm diversification

Farm diversification refers to expanding farming activities beyond traditional agricultural practices. It involves utilizing resources to create alternative revenue streams for farms, such as tourism, agroforestry, livestock, value-added products, and renewable energy. The practice of diversification varies from farm to farm, depending on the resources, location, land classification and topography of the farm and other opportunities available.

Farmers have been diversifying their operations for several reasons, including:

  • Increasing profitability: By diversifying their farming activities, farmers can generate additional income streams, reducing the risk of relying on a single product or commodity, and in some cases increasing production as a result.
  • Ensuring sustainability: Diversification helps farmers to protect their businesses from unforeseen events such as changes in climate, market fluctuations, political instability and by improving soil health and longevity.
  • Creating employment: Diversification can create employment opportunities for local people, reducing rural poverty and keeping young people engaged in agriculture.

Benefits of farm diversification

Farm diversification has advantages, including:

  • Increased revenue generation: Diversified farms have more revenue streams, leading to increased profitability and financial sustainability
  • Enhanced resilience: Diversification provides farmers with an opportunity to (depending on farm location and soil type) grow different crops, raise other livestock, and engage in varied activities that spread their risks and bring stability to their businesses, and in any event a move to more regenerative farming will improve the long term soil health and sustainability of the industry.
  • Preservation of the environment: By diversifying farming activities, farmers can implement environmentally sustainable agricultural practices such as agroforestry, integrated pest management, and organic farming.

Approaches to farm diversification

Farmers have numerous options to diversify their operations, depending on their location, resources, and circumstances. Here are some approaches to farm diversification:

  • Agroforestry: The practice of growing crops and trees together to increase productivity and biodiversity.
  • Rural tourism: Hosting visitors on the farm to experience countryside living, rural hospitality, and outdoor activities.
  • Livestock production: Diversifying from growing crops, farmers can raise different types of livestock such as goats, pigs, poultry, and fish. This of course seems like a step back to an old fashioned type of mixed farming but one that actually improves the land if done well.
  • Value-added products: Processing farm products into finished goods, such as jams, jellies, oils, sauces, and crafts.
  • Renewable energy: Installing renewable energy systems such as solar, wind and biogas generators, can generate clean energy for the farm and sell excess power back to the grid.

Overcoming possible barriers to diversification: Financing and planning consent

There are several barriers that farmers may face when attempting to diversify their activities.

One significant hurdle is obtaining planning consent, where the diversification requires new non agricultural infrastructure which can be a complicated and time-consuming process. Some of these are equally challenging to both owner occupied and tenanted farms, for example should the farm be in a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Tenant farmers can have the additional challenge of more limited resources to devote to the planning process, along with the normal questions of whether the diversification will, if they are Agricultural Holding Act tenants rather than holding a Farm Business Tenancy, change the nature of their tenancy and hence lead to further complications. However, it is possible to overcome this barrier by working with experienced experts who can help create detailed business plans and drawings to improve approval chances.

Another potential barrier for tenant farmers is access to finance. Unlike owner farmers, they may not have the same collateral options, making it challenging to secure the necessary funding for diversification projects. To address this issue, grants and other sources of financing are available specifically for farm diversification, for example a number of agri environmental schemes. By taking advantage of these financing options, tenant farmers can obtain the resources they need to bring their diversification plans to fruition.

With careful planning, access to finance and support from experts including legal and planning advisors, tenant farmers have the potential to overcome the barriers and unlock the full potential of farm diversification.

If you are considering diversification or have encountered an issue during the process one of our agricultural experts are here to help. Take a look at our Agricultural Land, Farms & Estates web page to see the full range of services we can help you with.

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