When farmers search for ways to diversify, one of the first places to look should be very close to home.
Why? Because you don’t have to linger long in a supermarket to see that The Farm is an important part of big brand marketing strategy. There is public support for homegrown goods and images of the horny-handed farmer on a product or service, channeling desirable characteristics such as hard work, quality, freshness, health and flavour, evoke a positive feeling in customers. This positive association also extends to tourism in the countryside.
The need for farmers to identify new income streams has never been more evident and many are starting to make steps towards capturing this value for themselves. I travel across the country working with farm diversification projects and farm shops, and those that stand out have both a real integrity about what they do and a clear connection with the customer.
It’s vital for businesses to relate to their consumers and to my mind there are two key groups for farmers to understand: the baby boomers and the millennials who together represent more than 50 per cent of the population.
Baby boomers grew up after the war – they are now retiring early and have good levels of disposable income and time. By contrast, our millennials have grown up in a digital world – computer screens run their lives. They are racking up massive debts for their education, struggle to afford mortgages and often are either living with Mum and Dad or in rented accommodation. The baby boomers are taking over Facebook, the millennials are swiftly moving away from this platform and onto Snapchat and Instagram.
When choosing who to engage with, both groups look to businesses that share their values, provide them with an experience, and treat them as an individual. This is why the first step in diversification has to be to research your future clientele. When you've done this, and you have a clear diversification idea, issues such as grant funding and planning come into play.
Overall, the aim must be for a more diverse range of income streams that build on the characteristics the public loves about the humble British farmer.