CLA East Regional Director Ben Underwood believes diversification is a key consideration for many rural businesses during the current political uncertainty of Brexit and the ongoing negotiations over a future trade deal with the European Union.
Ben was speaking at a CLA Diversification Demystified seminar held at The Granary Estates in Suffolk attended by more than 100 landowners and rural businesses from across the East of England.
“Our seminar was an opportunity to really look at diversification and how people can broaden their horizons in terms of business focus and consider other avenues of income for their land and estates,” said Ben.
“There is uncertainty in terms of a future trade deal and what support there will be for landowners and rural businesses moving forward. People are having to look at their assets and income in other ways and for some it may mean putting their eggs in more than just the commodity basket.”
The event included unique first-hand accounts from four CLA members who are driving their own business diversification having undertaken ambitious projects on their farms, estates and businesses.
Guy Taylor, owner and Managing Director of The Granary Estates, discussed how he transformed redundant farm buildings into a luxury wedding and events venue situated on the Suffolk-Cambridgeshire border.
Guy said: “I have shared the journey I have been through from when I came back to the farm to what we are doing now through our wedding and events business that we set up six years ago.
“My advice for diversification is don’t be afraid about it. You can think about it many times but if you’ve got an idea you should crack on with it.”
Tom Raynham, Chief Executive of the Raynham Estate, discussed the wide variety of diversification projects at his estate, where a brownfield site that has been converted into one of the largest solar farms in the country is one significant area of diversification.
“I think this event has been a fantastic forum for CLA members to share ideas and look at what other people are doing in terms of diversification,” said Tom.
“Everyone has different assets and different locations so when considering diversification you should look at what you have, and try and gauge the businesses you want to develop on the strengths you hold. This is a better approach than looking at a wish list from what everyone else is doing.” He added.
Other speakers at the event included Tom Blofeld who is the owner and CEO of BeWILDerwood, a highly imaginative family adventure park set in Norfolk woodland; and George Unwin, Director, Baythorne Hall, where redundant farm buildings have been developed into a cookery school, wine shop and café.
The event was chaired by CLA Deputy President Mark Bridgeman and also included a presentation from Doug Field, Joint Chief Executive of the East of England Co-op and Chairman of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership who discussed grant funding opportunities.