Top three takeaways from Farm Business Innovation Show
Launching a new venture on the farm is a big decision, it will change the way you live and those of others around you but it has the potential to safeguard the future of the farm and create a new income stream for the business. It’s a decision we made back in 2004 when we rented out the first shed at Fruix Storage.
Recently I took a trip to the NEC in Birmingham to attend The Farm Business Innovation Show it was a brilliant way to take some time out to think about the existing business and explore new ideas. With over 1000 exhibitors and 500 speakers, I came home with lots of food for thought.
Here are my top three take home messages from the experience.
1) Know what’s happening
This message came across loud and clear from many of the speakers. Carry out research and gain an understanding of the trends in your sector. The rising tides in tourism for example are experience based stays, health and wellness packages, staycations coupled with a growing market for peace and quiet without Wifi.
Across all sectors customers wish to book from the comfort of their sofa, often in the evening, so making booking as easy as possible is the way forward. It’s important to create a seamless transition from marketing pages to reservation. Making this journey frictionless will increase numbers. I’ve already blogged about the many ways to book and reserve space here and am about to increase the size and position of the “Book Now” button on the Fruix Storage website.
2) Try it
As well as getting out and about to visit existing diversifications and making a business plan to check out the idea is financially viable just about all of the speakers encouraged delegates to try out the ideas in a small way.
If you are thinking about farm tours host a farm visit for locals now to get some experience and feedback. Set up a pop up shop to test out the market for farm retail. Turn your garden into an area for a small corporate day before you set up an events company.
It’s what we did when we rented out our first unit at Fruix Storage in 2004, it was just one barn to one customer for the first year or two.
3) Understand the new business may eventually need you more than the farm
This was probably the most eye-opening part of the two days for me. A fellow Scot who has diversified not far from told his story of developing a team building and events business on the family farm. He spoke of the pride he feels because the farm steading is now in very good repair and the yard is full of enterprise and buzz. These are important values to Andrew and I too.
But it was clear to see he has taken the business growth to a much higher level and in order to devote the time required to the diversification contracted out the farming operations. It will be obvious to people that know us, but both of us enjoy practical farming, a LOT. I can’t imagine us ever not farming but making a few changes might mean we can continue to grow and develop both sides, certainly a good challenge and food for thought.