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    Views on farming diversification sought for Agri-Business research

    Posted 19 March

    Student Tash McDonagh who is studying farmers' diversification decisions.

    The motives behind farms’ choices to take up diversification projects are being examined by a Harper Adams Agri-Business student as part of her final year research project.

    BSc (Hons) Agri-Business student Tash McDonagh, from Tewkesbury, decided to find out what made farmers choose to add new business initiatives to their on-farm work after spending a year on placement with Agricultural Management Consultants Wilson Wraight after securing her place via a Harper Adams Development Trust scholarship.

    During her year at the company, she found herself discussing what made farmers diversify with one of its partners, who noted that sometimes external events affecting markets could end up helping make farmers’ minds up about whether or not projects were worth pursuing – and with nearly seven in 10 farmers now diversifying, and an ever more complex global picture, Tash feels the topic is of growing importance.

    She said: “As of 2022, 68 per cent of farmers had diversified in the UK - but there is little research into whether diversification is always the best option.

    “I think that in the current agricultural market instability, it is crucial that farmers understand the implication of diversifying their farm for the long-term.

    “I spent my 12-month industry placement working at Wilson Wraight as an Agricultural Consultant and was able to work closely with clients who had diversified their farms for various reasons, with various outcomes.

    “Both this and a comment made by a partner of the company helped me pick my research topic - the comment was that 'sometimes market shocks or uncertainties can actually be positive for farmers because those who may have been on the fence about an idea, need that extra push to 'jump' and invest.”

    Tash has been asking farmers to complete a short online survey which can be found here, and will analyse the results before conducting follow-up interviews with farmers who have taken part.

    She is aiming to find out what influence periods of market instability have on farmers’ decisions – such the current impact of the war in the Ukraine or the ongoing difficulties for cargo freight in the Red Sea. Tash is aiming to understand if these diversification decisions, which farmers make in a period of market instability, could become sustainable business moves for the long-term.

    Tash, who grew up on her family’s small-scale Gloucestershire farm, had always known she wanted a career in agriculture after being inspired by her mother’s work.

    She added: “I always wanted to study agricultural business, after spending most of my childhood following my mum around the country with her ewe pregnancy scanning business - but it was not until I joined Young Farmers and spoke to the older generation who were at university, that I decided Harper Adams would be my uni of choice.

    “Now that I am in my 4th year at Harper, I can confidently say I made the right choice.

    “I have learnt a great deal not only from my course but also from the people I have met at University - many of whom I think will be lifelong friends.”

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