In a recent survey carried out by Lantra, 73% of the farm business interviewed stated that they had no plans to change their farm businesses going forward.
Reasons cited for this lack of change included the set up costs of diversification (51%), lack of advice (39%) and lack of access to finance (37%).
Only 10% of farm businesses surveyed had undertaken any form of diversification, which included livestock products, training and promotion of rural crafts and tourism.
Speaking at the recent launch of the report, Ian Marshall, Lantra Trustee said: “Farm businesses in Northern Ireland have a tendency to be averse to changing their core business model and a fear of failure and the stigma that this carries. However, they need to embrace change and consider ways to diversify their businesses in order to maintain a sustainable future. Some of the best business managers in Northern Ireland are farmers.”
Training is another area that needs to be addressed. Almost every farm surveyed had a tractor and a large majority had a PTO operated implement. Worryingly, 85% of farm businesses said they had not completed any training for this equipment - only 14 businesses had undertaken tractor training, and eight had undertaken training in PTO operated implements.
The survey highlighted three main factors as barriers to training: cost (60%), convenience (45%) and lack of information about training opportunities (41%). Cost was seen to include time lost through undertaking training, with no cover being available. However, it is important to consider the real value of training in terms of better working practices, efficiency, competence and safety.
Paula Smyth, Business Development Manager at Lantra, commented: “The survey revealed a lot of emphasis on statutory training as opposed to continuous professional development. It needs to be acknowledged that training is not just for those who don’t know how to use a piece of equipment; training can provide so much more. For example, it’s beneficial for maintaining and updating skills and keeping abreast of legislation. It also offers an opportunity to network with others to share information about working practices. Encouragingly, only 6% of those interviewed believed that they were too old to train.”