Farmers feeling the pressure to diversify in order to survive

About 80 per cent of farmers have said that tough market conditions have pressurised them into considering alternative revenue streams, according to new research.

Higher input prices, the cost of living, the fall out from Brexit and a transition from traditional farm subsidies have forced traditional arable, dairy or livestock farmers to use their land in different ways to boost income and in some cases remain a sustainable business.

Research commissioned by Investec Wealth and Investec highlighted the continued challenges facing those working in the agricultural sector across Yorkshire and the rest of the UK.

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Interviews with 100 freehold farmers found that all surveyed are trying farming alternatives in order to boost their incomes.

Jeremy and Louise Holmes who diversified from their dairy farm near Denby Dale in West Yorkshire and set up Yummy Yorkshire Ice Cream and Hide & Hoof restaurant, photographed by Tony Johnson for the Yorkshire Post.Jeremy and Louise Holmes who diversified from their dairy farm near Denby Dale in West Yorkshire and set up Yummy Yorkshire Ice Cream and Hide & Hoof restaurant, photographed by Tony Johnson for the Yorkshire Post.
Jeremy and Louise Holmes who diversified from their dairy farm near Denby Dale in West Yorkshire and set up Yummy Yorkshire Ice Cream and Hide & Hoof restaurant, photographed by Tony Johnson for the Yorkshire Post.

This included 80 of the farmers, who said they have felt pressured into diversifying due to current market dynamics in the agricultural sector.

More than half said their farm’s income had increased over the past two years because of other income streams.

Two-thirds of farmers said they were increasing biodiversity through increased tree planting or carbon capture.

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Yummy Yorkshire, at Denby Dale in West Yorkshire, started its diversification process from a traditional dairy farm by selling ice-cream made from its cows’ milk at the farm gate.

It has evolved into an ice-cream parlour with 18 flavours and a farm restaurant, with Jeremy and Louise Holmes at the the helm as the third generation of farmers.

Without either, said a farm spokesperson, it would be hard to say if the farm business would still be going or in what format.

A spokesperson for Yummy Yorkshire said: “The ice-cream was purely from a diversification perspective and looking at ways to make the farm work from a profitability perspective.

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"We now have a parlour on site and an 80-seater restaurant, It has evolved hugely since 2007 to where that has almost become the focus of the business.

"Jeremy and Louise would have found a way for the farm to be sustainable but without a doubt, the focus has become the hospitality side.”

Yummy Yorkshire is not alone in using its farm assets to diversify.

Within just a two mile radius of them in Barnsley there is the hugely successful Cannon Hall Farm which is also a tourist attraction and host farm for a number of television shows and Milk from the Hills, at Kidfield Farm in Hoylandswaine, which uses milk from its dairy herd to sell milk, milkshakes and ice-cream from its gates.

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The Yummy Yorkshire spokesman added: “There has been a massive shift and supermarkets have had a massive impact on the market. We are not alone in looking for ways to diversify and make the farm sustainable.”

Other popular new revenue streams in the survey included appearing at farmers’ markets or opening up to the tourism industry with holiday cottages or glamping facilities.

Last year, the then government extended Permitted Development Rights (PDR) from 28 days to 60 days, enabling farmers and landowners to operate agritourism projects across the summer without needing further planning permission.

Dan Yates, founder of booking site, Pitchup.com, says small campsites run under PDR make on average £13,000 in extra cash for farmers each year, while hardly impacting on the core activities of farm.

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He added: “The extension to PDR was very welcome, freeing farmers and landowners up to provide more caravan and camping pitches for holidaymakers.

“It also enables them to generate much-needed new income streams and supports rural businesses and communities with extra tourism revenue.”

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