Diversification is likely to play an important role after Brexit but farmers have been urged to research their intended market first.
Speakers at the recent Farm Business Innovation Show said setting realistic goals and budgets, promoting the new business and being passionate about it were vital to making new income streams profitable.
Michael Mack, farm and business management consultant at Savills, said whether farmers were considering setting up a glamping site, processing their own ice cream or opening a farm play park or wedding venue, the secrets to success were much the same.
“Without setting some simple objectives you will find it incredibly difficult to keep up momentum,” said Mr Mack.
A change in mindset was often required, he added.
“Farmers often do not run farms as businesses, they run them as family groups,” he said.
“Put yourself in a business mindset, have monthly meetings, with objectives and measurements so you can set new goals for the months ahead.”
If planning permission was required, it was useful to involve the council and neighbours from the outset, and be flexible where possible to accommodate their needs.
When it came to funding a project, there were plenty of EU grants available, predominantly through the Rural Development Programme, event delegates heard.
According to Dan Cox, programmes manager at Anglia Farmers, the two most useful for farm diversifications were the LEADER and Growth Programmes.
“There is a great deal of funding across about 80 per cent of rural England,” he said.
“It is fairly easy to access if you are meeting the local and national priorities. But the funding is only around until we leave the EU in March 2019 so realistically you have a year to get your application in [given the likely six-month approval period].”
Having got the project off the ground, the next major step is telling people about it.
A website is a must – and Rosie Whelpton, business development director at Geonet Solutions offered her top tips.
“One of the biggest things to think about is written content – not only for your users but also for the search engines,” she said.
“Photos, video, and good use of social media are all good ways to engage with your audience – and remember to use Google analytics to measure the impact of what you’re doing.
When it comes to choosing ways to reach customer, it is important to understand who they are in the first place, said Philip Gibson, managing director at Reverberate PR.”
“The traditional approach to diversification is to think of an idea, do it, and hope people will come,” he said.
“A better way is understand potential customers, develop an engaging brand, position your messages and live it. A brand is not just a logo – it can shape the way you run your whole business.”