Off farm incomes – using your agricultural skills for second incomes

30.05.13 Off farm incomes – using your agricultural skills for second incomes

There was a high transferability of skills from agriculture for off-farm incomes, with hot tubs, carpentry and video presenter all quoted as work done by farmers. Common sense and observation skills were cited as being important in any situation, with social media a new platform for farmers and rural business owners to learn and develop into.

Training was seen as very important, but still costly and tied up with red tape in certain situations and a barrier to development. Remaining active in discussion groups and networking are aids to making new opportunities for off-farm incomes.

These are necessary for some to supplement farming activity, though such skill sets should be pursued holistically for future benefit.

The discussion held on Thursday 30th May 2013 looked at the topic of “Off farm incomes – using your agricultural skills for second incomes” and generated a total of 315 tweets on the topic from 58 participants. These included farmers, agri-food businesses, rural advisors, land agents, lawyers, journalists, academics and NFU officeholders, as well as members of the general public.

Q1 Farming is a very varied job, list some of the things you might do during an average week, or the skills you need in reserve

  • Jack of all trades! Fencing, carpenter, welder, stockman, agronomist, businessman, negotiator
  • Sheep & beef foot-trimming, hot tubs, swimming pools, tractor driving, carpentry, verge trimming, fabrication
  • Collect brewers grains from brewery for pigs, take animals to abattoir, make pork pies, serve customers, marketing, manage staff
  • Pretty long list: forester, fencer, welder, mechanic, electrician, carpenter, admin assistant, first aider, conservationist
  • Off farm job next week will be shooting Video for Japanese travel company selling Wales and the Welsh Farmers
  • Farmers have a wide range of skills… for accountancy; business; people skills; practical skills – a bit of everything!
  • IT, book-keeping, electrician, welding, veterinary medicine dispenser, agronomist, fencing……The list goes on
  • I’m little diff. Home school my kids, doing MSc Organic Farming, grow veg, look after my small assortment of livestock!
  • Digger work, dry stone walling, fencing, building work, HGV work, retained firefighter & more all via ag skills

Q1b What would you list as the top five farming skills?

  • Milk cows, drive a tractor, shear a sheep and you won’t ever be short of work
  • I wonder if promoting via Twitter would rank as a Farm Skill nowadays?
  • Main skill is common sense! Plus logistics, planning, management, mechanical skills and a lot more (esp. as a contractor)
  • Business; practical; custodians of the countryside; lifelong knowledge acquired over time & people skills
  • Resource planning and investigation, finance, marketing & risk management , man management , legal and compliance
  • The best skill a farmer can have is observing nature, the soil and the land

Q2a Developing some of those skills, can skills needed in farming transfer to other jobs and businesses?

  • There are many transferable skills, I know that whatever happens my husband will never be out of work even if it’s not in ag
  • Problem solving, time management and communication skills – required everyday most jobs
  • Yes. But important to distinguish btwn what is a “skill” and what is knowledge and/or instinct.
  • When we needed to Tarmac the farmyard I found the skill of grain handling with the JCB loadall transferred to Tarmac nicely.
  • I’m interested in whether technology will take away the skill of watching nature, soils, livestock etc
  • Skills in farming are easily transferable- patient, calm under pressure, imaginative, caring and social useful to any employer
  • Team work and diplomacy are major skills (especially on family farm!!) that are transferable
  • I have transferred farm contractor hard work ethic into Winter Maintenance contracts using idle machines

Q2b Do training & certification costs prevent you from developing those skills so that you can look for additional work off-farm?

  • Training & gaining tickets for most equipment/tools is very expensive nowadays – but employers want them…
  • We find that the Lantra type qualifications aren’t recognised out of the industry so you need CPCS etc? Costly
  • Most transferable skills don’t need certification. time management etc. costs probably hold me back more on the ag side
  • If you’re self emp could be hard to justify expense of formal training
  • Don’t rely too much on bits of paper, build relationships and count on people to speak well of you

Q3a Do you currently do off-farm paid work, either for other farms, non-farming individuals or businesses?

  • Yes we do work at a local Horse Trials and then litter clearing after Festivals then land repairs
  • Our business survives through farm shop, hog roasts & catering at events. Only way for 140 acres of extensive organic grass
  • Have been doing Farming based off Farm work on TV and Radio for 7 years and written a welsh best-selling Book
  • Mostly on farm diversification including the B&B of course.
  • It is a fine line between part-time farming and a diversified farming business. Either way, it’s important to focus on BUSINESS

Q3b What are the most transferable skills in farming today? Please don’t say paperwork, even if it’s true!!

  • Learnt more about advocacy in YFC than I did in law school.
  • Networking, use of social media, innovation, trying to predict the future
  • Leadership, marketing, finance, crisis management, sustainability
  • You have to play to your strengths, like everybody else in every other industry

Q4 Do you listen to the Archers? How much do you know about the RABI charity Gateway project?

  • Archers was used to convey techniques to farmers
  • RABI provides real support for diversification and development of farmers and farming skills – great opportunities!
  • Ed & Emma in financial difficulty, needed additional work, RABI helped with sheep shearing training grant.
  • Arable farmer David on DVD real inspiration – now employs 5 people after tree-surgery training/finding off-farm work
  • Over 5 years of Gateway project, 70 people have taken advantage with grants totaling around £100,000
  • Don’t forget the Lord Plumb foundation too. He has just set up a grant to help young people in agriculture Its all complimentary

Q5 Who would you go to for up-skill training? LANTRA, Local training Group, other?

  • Lantra for ag skills, but they’re not very transferable to other sectors. We host Lantra training on farm as a diversification
  • Local training group round here uses the office space that the farm lets and they use LANTRA so makes sense to use them
  • I go to the pub where I get told how it should be done!
  • Remember there is a lot of informal training available via local discussion groups
  • Quite right about Chamber of Commerce. Think outside of the Box. We’re FSB members as well as farming unions.
  • Try local ag college-most do evening/part time courses on wide range of relevant subjects

Q6 A bit of fun to finish with. The off-farm job I’d most like to do is …

  • I was lucky enough to do it for ten years – Motorsport truckie. Actually brought skills from that back into farming
  • Sports Journalist! Rugby or Cricket.
  • You see that’s my difficulty my job is so diverse and I love it there is no other job I want to do
  • Tourist guide

Simon Haley, Reading Agricultural Consultants, and Alan Spedding, 2 June 2013

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