Event report: Farm diversification and rural enterprise event

participants at farm diversification and rural enterprise event
Lorraine Macrae, Scottish Rural Network Support Unit

Lorraine Macrae from the Scottish Rural Network Support Unit reports on the West Lothian LEADER Farm Diversification and Rural Enterprise Event.

Robert Arkley, owner of the highly successful Kingsfield Golf course and Driving Range in Linlithgow, welcomed over 50 people to an event hosted by West Lothian LEADER on 26 September 2016.

The event was designed to look at different ways farm diversification ideas can be supported at both local and national levels. The audience heard first-hand from Robert who, over the past twenty years, has transformed land at his family farm into a multi-stranded recreational facility encompassing golf, archery, clay pigeon shooting as well as hosting a wide variety of events from weddings to charity fund-raisers.

As Robert was able to demonstrate, successful diversification has many advantages - it allows family members to use and develop their non-farming skills, to have ownership of their own enterprise, and can have wider socio-economic benefits for the whole local community. Crucially, it can allow a family to remain on a farm that might not otherwise be able to support them with core farming activities.

Farms can diversify in a whole host of different ways from new and alternative crops and products, to converting agricultural buildings into industrial units for local business and from developing energy projects to exploiting tourism potential.

The audience, a mixture of farmers and others with an interest in rural enterprise heard from Kat Purser of West Lothian LEADER, Lorraine Macrae from the Scottish Rural Network and Jim Henderson of West Lothian Council about how different funding can help turn an idea into reality.

Under the Scottish Rural Development Programme, LEADER, the Forestry Grant Scheme and the Food Processing and Marketing Co-operation Scheme were all highlighted as offering potential for diversification support. The audience was also encouraged to contact the newly launched Farm Advisory Service. Other Scottish Government schemes such as the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme were mentioned as was the Princes Countryside Fund . Advice was on hand too from the likes of Business Gateway, NFUS, planners and others.

By the end of the morning the message was clear – the support is out there if you have an idea and the opportunity exists, and you are willing to do your research and get some advice.

Contact your LEADER Local Action Group for more information on how LEADER can support farm diversification and rural enterprise.