Savvy ways for the ‘smaller 95 per cent’ to earn a better farm living

Mike and Faith Mateer
Mike and Faith Mateer
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A former banker whose heart is set on running his own farm has used his business know-how to develop a free advice website for farmers.

Mike Mateer, 28, has launched ‘Farmtrepreneur’ as an online forum where successful farmers can share ideas and information about how to maximise profits.

Mike, who currently lives in York and has no family connections to farming, ditched a successful career in banking to pursue his dream of becoming a farmer. He swapped long hours at the desk in a stuffy office for hard physical graft in the fresh air on a self-imposed apprenticeship that has seen him complete work placements on farms across the country.

As well as sharing details of his own journey from banker to would-be farmer, Mike regularly posts articles and case studies about how farmers have identified additional income streams to boost their earnings.

“The website is completely free to use; it’s not intended to be a money-making venture. It’s a discussion platform for farmers who want to share ideas. I actually took the business model for it from the Metro newspaper, which is distributed free of charge to commuters but is a multi-million pound business.

“The idea is to get successful farmers - or farmtrepreneurs - sharing their knowledge. Through my work placements in the industry, I’ve realised there’s a huge gap between the top five per cent of businesses and the remaining 95 per cent. I’ve realised it’s all about developing multiple income streams, and there will be plenty of information on the website about how farmers can do this.”

One of the nuggets Mike has shared with visitors to the website is how farmers can sell their products through internet retail giant Amazon’s grocery arm. It’s a technique he’s already used to boost his own family’s income: “I’ve had some success with this. My wife, Faith, and I were trying to find a way to make it possible to for her to stay at home to look after our young daughter, Sariah, rather than go back to work. We started to research healthy and organic food that sells well on Amazon. Hardly anyone knows that Amazon sells groceries and that’s why it presents an exciting opportunity for every farming business. We found some wholesale goods, worked out the sales price on Amazon after fees and realised there was a profit margin.

“We’ve been running our own Amazon business for three months now, selling peanut-free peanut butter, and we receive a payment every two weeks that more than covers our food, fuel and a few bills.”

This and other inspiring ideas are part of what Mike refers to as his ‘business bar stool’ approach to running the website. It’s jam-packed with practical, no-nonsense advice, such as an article entitled ‘Five things you can do today to improve your farm’, which includes tips on reducing costs by cutting back on professional fees and making money by selling unwanted equipment and clutter.

He explained: “There are plenty of user-friendly tips and ideas, but it’s also very much about sharing opportunities that farmers can exploit.

“For example, lots of farmers are paying consultants extortionate fees. They rock up at the farm and, afterwards, nothing has changed. We want to get farmers sharing information between themselves, rather than paying out on fees for the sake of it.”

Many of the ideas and case studies will be drawn from Mike’s own experience of working on different farms as part of his apprenticeship in farming, as well as from the wealth of industry contacts he has built up.

In addition to developing his website and selling goods through Amazon, Mike continues to offer practical support to farmers and soon hopes to secure his own smallholding.

He said: “We’re tantalising close to getting our own farm and now that I have a young daughter that end goal has become even more important to my wife and I.”

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