Fruit farming has had a hard time over the last year, particularly due to difficulties finding harvest workers. The issue of migrant seasonal workers continues to be a significant concern due to both Covid and Brexit. So what farm diversification options are out there to help protect your fruit farm.
Pick your own. If you usually sell all of your produce in bulk this could be a great option for an additional income stream. selling direct to consumers will give you a much higher profit margin, as there is no middle man to take a cut. You can also normally charge a premium price for direct farm sales as customers appreciate the local farm connection. With pick your own you are also giving the customer an experience which means that the prices can be even more premium. You could further extend the experience side of the product with additional farm activities such as a tractor ride or some form of branded souvenir items.
There are a few downsides to this as you will require additional staff to ensure everything is running correctly and to manage the customers both for their safety and your sales. You also need to consider how best to position the event, for example, is this a one-day event or an ongoing event throughout the harvest season. You will also need to consider the likely number of customers and how many customers would be required to make the farm diversification worthwhile.
It would be worth considering how you can target larger groups of parents rather than on a 1-2-1 basis. For example, teaming up with a local school or activity group such as the scouts or parent/mum groups. All in all, it wouldn’t be the hardest of farm diversification projects to set up but all of the correct legislation and planning need to be put in place when allowing people onto a working farm.
Try to think beyond fruit in its simplest form, what other products could you create from your produce. By creating a larger range of products, you allow for a more stable business as you are not reliant on one individual product. Also, as the fruit growing season is very short, creating a diversified product range allows you to create an extended season and reduce the impact of seasonality in your farm business.
You don’t just have to have different fruit and vegetables you could introduce preserves and drinks!! At the moment the adult soft drink market is huge and growing rapidly!! More and more people are looking to reduce their alcohol intake while still having a grown-up drink out with friends, 1 in 5 adults in the UK now rarely consume alcohol and that rises to 1 in 3 when considering 18–25-year-olds. Adult soft drinks offer the perfect solution for this, names such as Luscombe drinks and Frobisher’s are already strong in the market but there is still plenty of space for new small scale drink brands.
This would be a great opportunity for farm diversification. But the key to a successful farm diversification is planning your route to market. How can you target the right consumers at the right time? how can you reach the market? You will need a strong brand to compete with the existing market, that brand should also have a premium feel for maximum rewards. You will also need to ensure you have a well-researched and clearly defined marketing strategy. As a newcomer to the market, no one will have heard of you so you will need to tell everyone your story and why they should buy your produce.
Social media is a great tool for this and with the right strategy and investment, you can quickly grow an engaged and substantial following. This is so important with farms in particular as they are often very rural and hence don’t have the same direct physical connection with their consumers. For any more help and guidance with marketing don’t be afraid to get in touch with us at Flame Marketing as it is our speciality.
Glamping has been growing in popularity for many years, and this year it is set to boom due to the increased demand for UK based holidays due to travel restrictions. Glamping normally refers to non-permanent holiday spaces such as yurts and shepherd huts. But for this section assume we are looking at all forms of holiday accommodation, including B&Bs, farm stays, holiday lets, and glamping options.
Glamping in all its forms is a great way to bring in an extra income over the spring, summer and autumn months whilst the weather is nice. This can be a larger investment as glamping huts etc can cost £10,000’s but they see a great rate on return if you can get them booked up. People charge anywhere upwards of £50 per night per person, and many unusual or luxury end glamping sites can go for as much as £300 per night per person. Assuming your glamping unit is fully occupied by 2 people for 200 days a year, you would see a return on investment in half a season minus costs of cleaning and furnishing etc.
Maybe not the farm diversification for you if you are a pig or poultry farm as people are looking for idyllic country living without the smells of the countryside. It is also worth considering if you are going to be comfortable with guests staying on your farm and how best you wish to manage this farm business. This option works particularly well if you have a younger member of the family who can devote more time to the glamping business and take ownership of it. If you have the option to invest a larger amount of capital a great option for you.
As you specialise in growing fresh produce you could diversify into selling fruit plants and shrubs. With every growing interest in grow-your-own and many new keen gardeners joining the ranks, this is the ideal time to consider selling plants to the public. Your expertise in producing healthy commercial fruit plants will also help to support your credibility with new customers.
This may add more labour to your current system but the profit margin of trees and shrubs is far greater than the fruit itself. You will need to set this up in a way to let the public onto the farm so you will need to ensure you have a suitable setup with parking and access where the public won’t be endangered by machinery, livestock and any other dangers.
Finally, why don’t you mix and match some of the diversifications above and develop your farm shop selling your fresh produce and even a larger range of products? There are many ways to start this process, you can choose to start small and build gradually allowing for a smaller upfront investment, or you can look at loans or grant funding to push for a larger retail business from the start.
As spoken about before marketing and getting yourself out there is so important with this. At the end of the day, if you have no customers, you have no business. So, if you go down this route get marketing!
These 5 options are great for the fruit farmers of the UK as it gives a range of options that may suit you. For any more information or if you need help and guidance with your farm diversification please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
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Here is a link to a recent talk on social media marketing for farm diversification