Increase your farm income: diversification


Diversification involves broadening the activities of a business into other new potential money making ventures. By taking on new activities a business can supplement what it has traditionally done and increase the likelihood of a successful future.

Around 10 per cent of Northern Ireland’s farms have diversified. These farms are now realising the benefits of taking on new income generating activities. Diversified farms can enjoy increased personal and farm family success, improved finances, increased efficiency and see redundant farm buildings back in use.

This guide sets out the main advantages of diversifying a farm. It also looks at how to diversify and identifies local sources of advice and support.

What is farm diversification?

Farm diversification is when a farm branches out from traditional farming by adding new money making activities. This can be in place of or in addition to its traditional farming pursuits. Farm diversification can involve anything, from adding pastured poultry and organic beef production to starting a bed and breakfast in the barn or setting up a local tourist attraction. In short farm diversification usually involves a shift from traditional farming activities into non farm projects.

When considering what to diversify into many farmers find it helpful to consider:

  • Under used resources – many farms have unused buildings and farm resources. Farms that successfully diversify are often able to put their existing farm assets to use. Making a list of your existing farm under utilised resources is a useful first step in working out potential ideas.
  • Unfilled local demand – being able to meet a local demand for a product or service that is not currently being met may offer an opportunity to broaden your farms horizons into new business areas.
  • Existing skills and expertise – playing to your existing farming experience and knowledge increases your likelihood of success. It also makes it easier to make the transition from traditional farm to rural enterprise.
  • Area of interest – make a note of any business ideas that interest you. Following up on these means that you’re more likely to put in the extra hours and effort required to make your rural enterprise a success.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) produce a number of fact sheets that list a range of rural business ideas. Find guidance for farmers and farm family members considering diversification on the Rural NI website.