Increase your farm income: diversification

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.