Farm diversification: How to convince family members to diversify your farm
So you’ve got the land, you’ve been inspired and you’re ready to get rolling with achieving your farm diversification dream – but how do you convince your family it’s a good idea? Farm Diversity editor Victoria Galligan suggests how to get everyone on board – and keep them on side.
The very nature of farming means that many farms are family-owned. But it’s not just land and property that gets passed down from generation to generation – attitudes, practices and staunch views can also be a family trait.
If the “head” of your family has been doing things the same way for years, has friends in the area they don’t want to upset and really can’t imagine the farm making money in any other way than it always has done, then you’ve got a fight on your hands.
There’s no denying it – it’s time for a younger generation of farmers, who have grown up with technology, the internet and social media, to boost rural business. But they are often at odds with parents or even grandparents who run things and there will inevitably be disagreements on how to take the business forward.
So how do you convince your family that your diversification plan is the right one for your family business? There are a few steps you could take to reassure your family and help make them part of the future of the business.
1. Show them some examples
Visiting other farms which have diversified into a similar direction, or even just researching them on the internet, is a good place to start. We at Farm Diversity have lots of examples of success stories both in the magazine and even more on our website to look at.
Online forums, farming events and CPD workshops are also great sources of information.
We speak to a lot of farmers and landowners who have diversified and they are always keen to tell you about the pros and cons of their project. If you’ve got questions, reach out to them in a phone call or email and explain what you’re thinking of doing. They might not give away all the tricks of their trade, but they will have some good advice and positive feedback which you can feed back to your family.
Farming Connect in Wales even offers funding for farmers to go and stay in other areas to shadow rural businesses which have diversified.
2. Write a brief business plan
SWOT, CapEx and ROI may not appear in your family’s regular conversations but it’s necessary to get all the details written down to work out if your diversification can work. Farming Connect in Wales offers a business plan template which you can adapt to your needs. If you can show your family that you will get a decent return on investment, and the time frame it will take to do this, they’re more likely to take your ideas seriously.
3. Ask for advice
Agricultural and rural planning advisors offer a wealth of knowledge – they can steer you through funding, financing, planning permission and other legalities. Business mentors can also help with management of your business and advise on whether your plans will pay off. Of course, advisors will need to be paid – unless your local authority or bank offers free advice – but it’s well worth investing in a consultation to see if they can support you through your diversification journey.
4. Keep talking
Communication is key – don’t leave out family members from discussions or cut them off from being part the future of the business. Remember it’s their livelihood too and no-one wants a family rift. If your relatives can see how they will have a role in the new business and understand how income will be increased, then they should be convinced to give diversification a go.
5. Compare the options
Business is business and it sounds harsh but – if your family farm isn’t making money, what will happen to it? Compare the business forecast of diversifying vs sticking with what you already know. Is the farm currently making enough for future generations to make a living from it? If the answer is no, then you know which path to take…