Only a tiny proportion of farmers are interested in a diversified business – that is according to the results of the latest Teagasc research carried out on the matter.
‘Maximising the Use of Rural Resources’ was organised by the National Rural Network and Teagasc and run in association with the Irish Local Development Network, Macra na Feirme and the Western Development Commission, and these latest results from the document further highlighted that expanding the farm business or securing an off-farm job were the main economic strategies preferred by farmers.
“The research was conducted among a sample of 472 farmers nationwide,” David Meredith, Researcher explained. “When asked about their preferred development strategy, 38% said their preferred option was to develop and expand their farming business while 58% expressed a preference for combining farm work with an off-farm job. Just 2% of farmers expressed a preference for setting up a diversified farm-based business.”
The research also indicated that the interest and desire to increase scale and output in farming was predominantly within the dairying and tillage sectors, and that three out of every five farmers - mainly involved in beef and sheep production - felt their farm business was not capable of delivering sufficient income to support the farm household.
The results also pointed to the fact that almost three-quarters of all farmers surveyed felt that the opportunities for off-farm employment would become limited in the future.
“Less than 2% of farmers are currently operating a diversified business on their farms,” Mr Meredith continued. “The majority of these businesses are tourism-related. In the UK, 31% of farms operate a diversified business, however, the proportion of diversified farm businesses per 1,000 households in Ireland is higher that that of the UK.”
Dr Pat Bogue of the National Rural Network then added that the absence of off-farm jobs posed a “major problem” for tens of thousands of farm families. “There is a perception and fear among farm families that diversification must be something totally new or different, but we see many examples of new income earning opportunities which have involved new approaches to core products such as direct selling of beef or lamb, sales through farmers markets or added value dairy products. There are supports for these activities under the current rural development programme under LEADER and additional supports are proposed in the new programme post 2013,” Dr Bogue concluded.