In the second article looking at what makes an entrepreneur, Cedric Porter discusses the three different types of business which demonstrate a wealth of opportunities farmers can maximise
Last week, we looked at the increasing potential for entrepreneurialism in farming. A recent report into the subject, commissioned by the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC), from consultants Andersons and the Cranfield School of Management, suggested there was no reason why farmers should not be entrepreneurs, particularly as there are many around.
The OFC report published in January this year says while some people may be more willing to take risks than others, everyone has an entrepreneurial ability within them if they become enthused and passionate about a business idea.
One of the report authors Graham Redman, The Andersons Centre, says the core to an entrepreneur’s psyche is the drive to feed off and create change.
Mr Redman says: “Many farmers are successful business managers, but this does not mean they are entrepreneurial, nor does working long hours, nor taking risks.
“But executing innovative ideas, such as developing a market opportunity for a beef enterprise to supply medical grade collagen for plastic surgery clinics, is very entrepreneurial.”
The report also explores how many people find change threatening, but entrepreneurs do not, because change creates opportunity.
Mr Redman says: “They go out of their way to question the established order of things and look for ways to create competitive advantage.”
Diversification can be the means by which farmers demonstrate entrepreneurialism, but need not.
He says: “It could mean concentrating a business to fewer activities; indeed businesspeople with single objectives tend to be more successful than those with several.
“Historically, farmers were less profit-orientated than most businesses, being more concerned with subsistence and survival. This helps explain why farming demonstrates a lower level of entrepreneurialism than other sectors.
“Farms are remarkably strong places from which to develop entrepreneurial businesses. They have valuable resources, most of which have been relatively inefficiently deployed, and often have a strong capital base.
“Of fundamental importance for successful entrepreneurialism on-farm is the business must remain true to its agricultural roots, and respect the land and ‘home farm’ as its golden goose which lays the golden egg.”
While it is clear different character traits help entrepreneurialism, only perseverance, persistence and pro-activity are exclusively necessary to achieve something entrepreneurial.
There are three basic groups of farming entrepreneurs. Those who add value to what they produce; those who use farming assets to develop new businesses; and those who take a radical approach to existing operations.
Anthony and Lucy Carroll launched the business 10 years ago. Now the family runs a business supplying heritage varieties to some of the nation’s top chefs and premium restaurants.
It is also starting to export into other European countries. The business was winner of last year’s Arable Innovator of the Year category at the British Farming Awards, organised by Briefing Media, Farmers Guardian’s parent company.
A former dairy farm near Warwickshire, which brews a range of beers, including bespoke beers customers create alongside the farm’s brewer.
In the late 1980s, first-time Yorkshire farmers Lesley and Ian Buxton wanted a way to increase milk output above their quota limit on their 32-hectare (80-acre) tenanted farm.
With 36 milkers with 27 followers, the business makes about 3,000 litres/day Monday to Friday, and now supplies the food service sector, wholesale, retail and exports to the Falklands.
Masterminded by Daisy Bubb, who grew and sold dried flowers from the family’s arable farm. In 2005, Daisy’s son Michael and wife Rosemary began selling natural confetti, and now their son Jim runs the business which employs nine permanent staff plus 45 students during harvest. Customers can design their own confetti buckets online using a tool, which helps them choose colours, calculate amounts and visualise the end result. The business won Digital Innovator of the Year at last year’s British Farming Awards.
Louise Nicholl has built a bed and breakfast and holiday cottage business in Angus, Scotland. The latest part of the enterprise is to convert redundant grain silos into unique holiday lets.
Bowdens Farm Business Centre has been created over 15 years to cater for almost 20 small to medium sized businesses, near the Somerset levels. Purpose built modern offices and converted buildings are all equipped with modern facilities including kitchens, WCs and showers. All offices and retail units also have access high-speed fibre optic broadband. Managed by the Lang family, it offers an electic mix of shops and businesses.
Cannon Hall Farm
A farm food and attraction site in Yorkshire which attracts 600,000 people a year and employs 200 people. Operates on 77 hectares (190 acres) and includes a live milking parlour, working farm areas and a restaurant. The business was named the winner of Diversification Innovator of the Year at the 2015 British Farming Awards.
Farmer Michael Eavis has created one of the world’s most high-profile on-farm, non-farm businesses. Still a dairy farmer at Worthy Farm, Somerset, he has been hailed as one of the most 100 most influential people in the world, thanks to his creation of a 135,000-person music and performing arts festival worth £37 million. Turning 80 last year, Michael remains an active farmer and was named a previous winner of the RABDF/NMR Gold Cup award.
Some farming entrepreneurs produce commodities, but they do it in a way which challenges convention.
A first generation farmer, Rob first managed Thrift Farm, Hertfordshire, before taking it over in 1988. He now farms 1,600ha (3,954 acres) in the region, plus another 485ha (1,198 acres) in Nottinghamshire, growing crops on contracts for a number of established food processors. Robert has been one of the pioneers of Conservation Grade (CG) cereals, growing Oats for Jordans and as one of the 80 or so CG growers has dedicated 10 per cent of the arable area of the farm to wildlife. He is the host of the 2016 Cereals Event.
Barfoots of Botley started by Peter Barfoot in 1976 on 52 hectares (21 acres) of tented land. Peter still runs the business today, but it has expanded to supply all-year-round from its own farms and partner farms in 28 countries around the world.
Produce includes a range of vegetables, including sweetcorn, asparagus, beans and squash, alongside a range of organic products. In 2010, Barfoots completed commissioning of its on-site AD plant, which takes all the green waste produced by the factory process and produces enough electricity to power all of its operations and export two-thirds to the national grid.
Digestate is used to replace much of the fertiliser used on-farm, completing a closed loop. Barfoots has continued to invest in green technology, such as an electric pool car fleet, LED lighting and highly efficient compressors. In December 2013, Barfoots opened its second AD plant.
Created by three Cumbrian locals: John Geldard; Steve Chambers; and Paul Airey. As well as being business directors, at heart they are a farmer, a meat salesman and a butcher and grew the brand to become a one-stop shop for local products for Asda. The initiative now involves 80 products from 30 farmers and producers on their doorstep and the farm shop celebrated its 10th birthday in 2011.