August 2, 2008

When It’s Time to Make Hard Decisions

WHEN the diversification starts to make more money than the main business of farming, hard decisions have to be made.

Lee Moor Business Park, near Alnwick, is now more successful than the farm where it is based.

"I've cut right back on farming because my diversification is doing so well. I farmed 400 acres and I've cut that back to 100 acres, and I am making more money on that 100 than on 400," says Ian Brown, who runs the business park and is the tenant farmer.

But he has not given up farming altogether and still has grazing and woodland - where he grows willow to fuel his renewable energy company Toasty Heating.

"If you get into a diversification that is making a lot of money, it can come to a point where you look at the farming," says Brown.

"As individual businesses, there is the risk of being distracted by diversifications. You need to ensure you have the correct management in place. It comes down to the skills base of each individual person running a farm."

But he doesn't believe that the rush for alternative enterprises will necessarily have dire repercussions on Britain's agricultural capabilities.

"Most farmers do what they've always done and do it in a professional way. In most farms, I don't believe the core farm is suffering," he said.

"Food prices are going up by a very small percentage. After the war, more than 40% of disposable income was spent on food, now it's 10-11%.

"People have become used to holidays abroad. There is a realignment in society going on as people realise what are necessities. Food and heat are necessities.

Holidays abroad aren't."

Most farmers do what they've always done and do it in a professional way

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