Article Published in Western Morning News – Saturday 7th February 2020:
Is investment the right decision to help future-proof a rural business?
Janet Herniman, rural business and farming advisor at The Diverse Regeneration Company, explains how improving business infrastructure and investing in new equipment can pay dividends.
Coming from a working dairy farm myself, I am fully aware of the difficulties many of our regional farmers face, not only on a day-to-day basis but also over the longer term with such dilemmas as diversification decisions, succession planning and of course investment in new machinery or equipment. These are all issues that give us farmers’ cause for many sleepless nights!
Over the years that I’ve worked for The Diverse Regeneration Company (DR Company) I’ve been lucky enough to help and advise many farming and local rural businesses as to the best way to plan and invest for a long term profitable future. I’ve worked with several farms that have wanted to improve or grow through investing in new machinery and technology for their farm, including moving to robotic milking systems. But for many farmers this is a huge investment and an enormous commitment but one that can often make all the difference to the long-term prospects of a farm. Getting the right machinery and equipment can often mean higher productivity or higher milk yields on a dairy farm and greater overall efficiency. Although a large investment for any family farm, expert advice, business planning and help with understanding what grant funding programmes are available (and the subsequent help with the application process), can certainly help to secure a favourable and profitable long-term future .
It’s not just farms that we’ve worked with at DR who have seen excellent returns on investment. Rural businesses such as local Devon farmer Stuart Luxton with his farm shop, ‘Farmer Luxton’s’ in Okehampton, who were able to both expand the shop and include a new café area with the help of grant funding through the Greater Dartmoor LEAF programme, are a great exampleThanks to the new building, refurbishments and improved equipment, Stuart and his wife Lynette have been able to take on several new members of staff and they’ve seen sales increase considerably. The farm shop and café have also seen customer numbers go from 700 a week to over 1200 a week – all within the first six months after expansion. (Stuart Luxton was awarded 40% of his project costs, through the GD LEAF funding programme.)
Investment can come in many forms and none more so than the conversion of an old medieval barn at Ashridge Court Farm, which is now operating as a stunning wedding venue. Cat Richards-Kastelic of Ashridge Court Farm explains: ‘It was a long process getting change of use and planning permission, sympathetically renovating the barn and deciding what was important to us to be able to provide for our clients. We had put a lot of thought and money into getting this venue right. We were very lucky to be able to successfully apply for some funding to help us do the work and I don’t know what we would have done without the help of the DR Company. They helped us not only with our business planning but also the funding application process for a Greater Dartmoor LEAF grant. It helped turn our ideas into reality and enabled us to turn a run down barn into a really special venue that we are incredibly proud of.”
My advice to any farming or rural business that is looking to plan for the future, whether it be day to day business planning, succession planning or changes in infrastructure and equipment, is to seek expert professional advice. Making big decisions and large investments for any business can seem a daunting and potentially risky prospect but with the right expert help to guide and assist throughout the process – it can turn from a scary process to an exciting project!
If you have a similar desire to increase your businesses productivity for the long-term but need some business advice, or support in gaining financial assistance, then The Diverse Regeneration Company are here to help. www.drcompany.co.uk