Diversification key to survival for many family farms

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You won’t be able to travel far at the moment without being encouraged off the road by a sign announcing a pick-your-own pumpkin patch or similar.

Autumn for farmers was traditionally all about drilling and spraying. However, with significant drops in crop subsidies already taking hold and with more to come between now and the end of the Basic Payment Scheme in 2027, more and more farms are likely to be looking away from traditional crop farming as the sole source of income.

The recently-opened Sustainable Farming Incentive (“SFI”) scheme offers an alternative but by no means comparable subsidies to farmers, primarily to reward environmental credentials.

However, this may not be attractive to all, particularly in view of the potential set-up costs to achieve compliance and the more stringent hoops for farmers to jump through to qualify.

Diversification avenues, ranging from holiday lets to DIY liveries, pick your own and glamping, may be of greater interest in this new landscape.

If done alongside SFI, care would need to be taken that these initiatives did not prejudice eligibility for payment under the SFI.

Indeed, whilst diversification will be the key to survival for many family farms, that is not to say it is without potential complexities. There are a wealth of factors to consider, from ensuring that you stay on the right side of the 28-day planning rule where relevant having the right services in the right places, security, health and safety and tax, to name a few.

Any landowner considering diversification should consult with their accountant to discuss any potential tax implications as a first port of call.

Support may also be available for such initiatives in the form of other grants, which your land agent or farm business consultant would be able to advise you on as a subsequent port of call.

Diversification ideas may start small, but with the right advice and support, there is every potential, as they say, for small acorns to grow into big oak trees (or even pumpkins!).

Bigger than that, pumpkin patches and similar are opening up farms to more of a non-farming audience.

Along with help from the farming trinity that is Jeremy Clarkson, Kaleb and Gerald, this is raising the national profile of and engagement with agriculture and hopefully inspiring a future generation of farmers, encouraged by the realisation that farming can be more than sitting on a tractor all day (although not in any way to be sniffed at, especially if you are Jeremy Clarkson and your tractor is a Lamborghini one).

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