Tag Archive: farm

TOP PERFORMING FARMS: STRIVING FOR SUCCESS

Elliot Taylor looks into the characteristics of top performing farms in the UK, giving advice on how you can improve your business performance and future proof your business.

If I were to ask you what are the characteristics of top performing farms; what would you say? Would it be high yields, the best soils or perhaps the size of the farm, or is it down to selling price, the type of machinery or system?  These factors are without doubt, important, but the management practices you adopt are the key to becoming a top performer. How can two identical farms, with the same size, soil type and systems be so different in terms of profitability?

Top Performing Farms

Characteristics of top performing farms is the first topic on the agenda for our seminar series across the North. Why? Because Brexit is likely to cause the biggest shake up within the agricultural industry for a generation and everyone wants to know how best to weather any potential storm ahead.

Interestingly, The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) released a report looking at the key characteristics of the top performing 25% of farms in the UK. The report identified several areas that can improve performance; things in your control, and if adopted will make you more likely to be a top performer and help you to future proof your business going forward. My brief thoughts on some of these areas are below.

Cost Control

Focus on minimising overheads, in particular power, machinery and labour. For example, with machinery ask yourself, can I keep machinery for longer? Is my machinery well maintained? Can I share machinery with a neighbouring farm? Also look at how you buy you machinery, should you consider restructuring existing finance.

Aim and Objectives

How often do you really talk about moving your business forward? Make time, sit down and talk about your aims and objectives, but don’t just focus on the business, discuss your personal wish list too.

Prepare Budgets

You’re more likely to be a top performer if you prepare budgets. Budgeting will help you forward plan and understand what effect a price change or a fall in subsidies will have. Budgets will help you understand your future profitability and, most importantly, the cash you have available during the year.

Compare your Business

Whether it be an internal comparison with your own business year on year, or, using external data, the more information you have at your fingertips the more successful you’ll be. Top performing farms benchmark, attend discussion groups and look closely at key performance indicators. My advice is to do the same.

Know your Market

Speak to your buyers, ask them what they want and determine if you can deliver it? Work out the cost to your business if you don’t meet the grade and work out the advantage if you do.

Attention to Detail

It’s impossible to focus on every little thing but try and focus on the things that are important. Making a number of small changes can have a major impact on the bottom line. Identify say ten things that you can change and work through them one by one. Consider the positive cumulative effect these change will have on your business.

Be Prepared to Change

If you identify a problem or see an opportunity be prepared to change. Don’t just prepare budgets or analyse your business, make the changes too.

Innovate

It’s no secret that focusing on technology and productivity will drive you forward. It’s likely that the push to improve farm productivity will continue supported by grant funding, so make use of them. If you innovate you will make your business more sustainable, resilient and productive.

Staff

It goes without saying, look after your team. Explain your aims and objectives; get your staff to buy into what you want to do and train them well. Not all farms have employees but remember to look after family labour as well.

Specialise

The farms that specialise are more likely to be in the top 25%. Focus on what you’re good at and what suits your farm.  You may be more profitable if you have one system but do you want all your eggs in one basket?

As I mentioned, all these are things are practises you can do something about and those looking to be one step ahead of Brexit must consider the depth they know their business, how it will react to change, and finally, be prepared to make the changes necessary to remain profitable.

For further advice, please get in touch with our local team of dedicated Farm Business Consultants.

Northumberland and Borders: Andrew Jamieson
County Durham: Elliot Taylor
Yorkshire: Simon Britton

Autumn: the perfect time to prepare your farm for a spring market launch

Duncan Clarke, Associate, explains why autumn is the perfect time to prepare your farm for a spring market launch.

The recent publication of the Agriculture Bill has, perhaps, given us some idea of the future of the industry post BREXIT. Whilst many column inches have already been written about the implications of the bill, should it become law, much can change between now and the end of March 2019.

Some farmers and landowners will undoubtedly see the opportunities which BREXIT will present, however, I am almost certain that there will be a squeeze on farm incomes going forward and whilst there are a myriad factors which influence land values, and the direct connection between the value of an acre of land and its earning capacity has long since been largely severed; for some this may be the trigger to put the farm on the market.

Traditionally spring is when farms are launched onto the market; potential vendors looking to do so should be making preparations now and indeed over the winter months, to ensure a smooth launch next year.

Farms need to stand out to attract potential buyers in what can often be a crowded spring market; if farms are not properly presented they can easily be overlooked.  So, what can, and indeed should, vendors be doing now to ensure the best possible chances of success in the spring?

The winter months tend to be quieter on the farm so any spare time should be used to undertake repairs and improvements to property, including redecoration of houses etc. Time should also be taken on having a good tidy up so that, come spring, the farm looks at its best and is in a ‘move into’ condition.

Thought should also be given now as to whether there are any development opportunities that can be exploited to add value to the farm. Permitted Development Rights were extended in 2014 with the introduction of Class Q which means that, since then, it has been somewhat easier to secure the conversion of redundant farm buildings to a residential use. As part of this process the landowner should ensure that they have all the evidence they need to meet the various planning requirements and thus, avoid any uncertainty as to the eligibility of the building during the conveyancing process itself.

The winter months are also a good time to make sure that all paperwork is in order and to prepare sales particulars and marketing literature. Clear, sunny winter days can provide a great backdrop against photographs, videos and promotional material. Many professional photographers now use drones to take wider angle shots of the farm and if these are all taken in the right conditions over winter, they will really make the farm stand out in spring.

Alongside making sure the marketing literature is all in place, potential vendors will need to make sure that any residential tenancies, cropping licences, short term grazing arrangements etc. are brought to an end or at least properly documented so that the farm can be sold with the certainty of vacant possession or, if this is not possible so that vendors know exactly on what basis they will be taking on existing occupiers. Thought will also need to be given as to how existing employees will be looked after.

For more information and advice on launching your farm to the market, please contact Duncan Clarke on 07834 321429 or alternatively, by emailing duncanclarke@georgefwhite.co.uk.

Celebrating Diversity

With the rural sector facing both challenges and opportunities in the coming years we look at one individual who has taken a very different approach to diversification.

Diversity

Over the past few years, George F. White have been delighted to support a number of awards across the region. We have been proud to learn about, and meet, many outstanding individuals and businesses in the rural sector.

From established traditional farming businesses through to diversification projects, and even individuals beginning their journey, the experience of being involved in regional awards, meeting the faces behind the stories, is a fascinating insight into the breadth and depth of skills and entrepreneurial spirit on our doorstep.

In early 2018 we were delighted to be part of the judging team for the Northern Farmer Awards, through our sponsorship of the Outstanding Achievement Award. Following many hours of deliberation amongst the knowledgeable and experienced panel, the winners were decided upon.

Whilst all those shortlisted, and of course the eventual winners, each are worthy of individual praise, there was one entry that stood out from the rest… that was Denys Fell who runs a farm near Hull in East Yorkshire.

Denys farms approximately 270 acres, mixing both organic arable and livestock in addition to fruit and nut trees, potatoes and cut flowers. However, it is not his endeavours in growing wheat or managing the flock of 200 sheep that stood out, but rather his diversification project, a community care centre based on Densholme Community Care Farm which really captivated the judges.

Denys saw the impact of the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001 and was determined to help farmers struggling with loneliness, isolation and mental health issues, but he wasn’t really sure how.

Almost a decade ago, he invited three young men with profound mental health issues, living in a local care home, to visit the farm to help plant potatoes. Denys immediately saw the benefits of how the farm could provide assistance to those with disabilities, mental health issues, learning difficulties or suffering from addictions. The seed was planted.

Denys set up Densholme Community Care Farm, separate to his farming business, as a social enterprise which now employs ten people and looks after over 70 students per day. All the students have disabilities, mental health issues or learning difficulties and attend for up to four days per week on an entirely voluntary basis.

Denys is incredibly proud of the success of the project; how it has allowed the students to develop friendships, learn new skills and visibly grow in confidence.

It was telling that, for the Outstanding Achievement Award, the judging panel were unanimous in Denys being the winner. It was certainly no surprise on the night when he went on to pick up the Northern Farmer of the Year Award.

Diversification is a topic of significant debate at the moment with Brexit likely to bring about both new challenges and opportunities for those in all business sectors, but particularly rural enterprises. Understandably with much focus being on the efficiency and profitability of such businesses, it is all the more reason that the project undertaken by Denys Fell stood out above many impressive stories from all of the nominations.

To learn more about Denys Fell and the Densholme Community Care Farm, click here.

Andrew Jamieson is appointed as Partner

We are thrilled to have appointed Andrew Jamieson as a Partner to our farm consultancy team.

Andrew Jamieson

Andrew Jamieson, who has previously worked in the farm team at George F. White, will be predominately based in the Duns office, covering the Northumberland, Borders and Cumbria regions, supporting landowners and farmers on a range of operational, financial and business planning matters. He re-joins the team to expand the our offering, strengthen our range of farm consultancy services, and attract a wider client base from the Borders down to the North West region.

Andrew has specialist knowledge of the traditional farm sector and how it operates as well as commercial planning, development and energy experience, which will provide an extra dimension to the overall farm support services that we offer.

He is also well versed on the current political landscape and farming policies which means he can offer a holistic approach in his advice to farmers, not only providing support from an operational aspect – Andrew has been working with farmers for 15 years so has a lot to offer in terms of practical farm management – but also helping them to direct their business, and make it more resilient, through looking for opportunities to make positive changes to land ownership and use and investing in new ways to generate second income streams.

Simon Britton said: “It’s wonderful to have Andrew back on board, joining us as a Partner in the business, who enhances our farm consultancy team through the capabilities, connections and credibility he brings. Andrew has a special kind of calibre that is hard to find, and something that will distinguish our team from other farm consultancy services out there. His first-hand experience with farmers and landowners and his relationships with local architects, planners and developers will strengthen our farm team’s ability in helping clients to realise the potential of their land and business. Andrew will work closely with landowners and farmers, advising them on how they can safeguard their core farming businesses through diversification and take them through careful business planning and diversification, guiding them through the steps they need to take to do this, bringing in the wider teams at George F. White for specific guidance a farmer may need such as planning and development, engineering or surveying. I am delighted to welcome him back.”

Farmers are currently facing big changes – Brexit, volatile market prices and challenging weather conditions – so Andrew’s proven track record of not only identifying problems but finding innovative solutions will be a key asset to our team as we guide farmers through this period of instability, but also opportunity.

Talking about his new role, Andrew said: “It’s great to be back and be part of such a vibrant and skilled team that’s gone from strength to strength over the last five years. The people-focused culture of George F. White and the way the Group really nurtures its employees, helping them to achieve their personal development goals, in the context of the wider business objectives, really appealed to me. I hope my experience and knowledge can help to broaden the Group’s offering to its existing farm and land clients, but also attract a wider client base through a cross-delivery of support, from practical farm management to strategic commercial advice, to help build resilience in turbulent times. I can’t wait to get started!”

We hope you will join us in welcoming Andrew back to our team.

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