Alex Black spoke to Heather Hancock on why she believes the countryside can become a thriving business centre post-Brexit
Take a really hard look at what your business could be doing to prepare for the future, and play to what skills and assets you already have.
That was the message from Heather Hancock, Food Standards Agency (FSA) chairman, as she geared up for a new non-executive director role at Rural Solutions.
She added people needed to stop making guesses about the outcome of political negotiations, and assess what opportunities were most appropriate for their business, highlighting the need for housing and a growing demand for rewarding leisure activities in the countryside.
Mrs Hancock added she was also practicing what she preached, running a land and property business with her husband in the Yorkshire Dales.
They also saved a country pub from closure in 2011, because they knew just how important it was to local people and visitors.
With Brexit approaching, she advised people to ‘take a really hard look’ at their whole estates and what they could offer to create an ‘active, vibrant, innovative’ countryside.
“In times where there is a lot of change, there is also great opportunity,” she said.
After being brought up in the Lancashire countryside, Mrs Hancock studied land economy at Cambridge, working as a land agent before being appointed private secretary to three successive Home Secretaries.
She has also been chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
“I hope my country upbringing gives me empathy for the values and the positions of rural communities,” she said.
But added she hoped her business background showed she had more than just a warm heart for the country.
Speaking about her role at FSA, Mrs Hancock said the work they were doing would be of benefit to the farming industry.
“It can only be for the good of the food and farming sector that produce is held in such high regards.”