The farming industry needs to adapt to survive, and sharing learned lessons can help - Sophie McCandlish

Rob Copley of Farmer Copleys, Ravensknowle Farm, Pontefract. Credit: Scott Merrylees
Rob Copley of Farmer Copleys, Ravensknowle Farm, Pontefract. Credit: Scott Merrylees
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Tickets went on sale this week for the annual three-day conference held by the Farm Retail Association.

The FRA is an organisation which represents farm shops, farmers’ markets and pick-your-own enterprises.

And while it is a national body, it has a big Yorkshire influence. The chair is Rob Copley, the owner of Farmer Copleys and the managing agent, since this summer, is the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.

When he was talking about the association earlier this week, Mr Copley said his business had been built on the advice given to him by that community.

He made the point that building a business could be lonely with no-one to talk to.

With diversification on the rise and farmers working to build a sustainable future for their businesses, sensible advice can mean the difference between success and failure.

Networks like the FRA can provide that listening ear or piece of invaluable advice.

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It doesn’t matter if you are a start-up or have years of experience under your belt, trying something new can be scary and when it is your livelihood in the balance it can be terrifying.

There is no getting away from the fact that farming needs to adapt to survive. The Northern Farming Conference in November was all about diversification with speakers sharing what they had done and how they had done it.

The FRA conference in March will see delegates visiting a number of sites which are all about diversification. Farm shops which showcase the great produce bred or grown on-site; farm sites which support pick-your-own ventures and what has become a big growth sector, garden centres.

Horticulture is feeling the pressure the same as agriculture and as Mr Copley said, it is time to embrace it. If the two sectors can support each other to make a stronger whole then that is surely better for everyone concerned.

Lending support is something we all think about a little more at this time of year and as we move into Christmas it doesn’t take much to look out for those around us, particularly those who may be feeling the pressures of what has been a tough year in this industry.