Farm diversification refers to the action whereby the business branches out of its existing enterprise. This new venture may replace or coexist with the current production.
DEPI VIC have produced a guide to help new landholders make decisions about diversifying their property.
The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have produced a similar guide.
Farm Diversity is a website developed by RIRDC.
"FarmDiversity.com.au is the first step in exploring something new for your farm. This initiative of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation allows you to search crop and animal production enterprise alternatives by type or location to discover which may be best suited to your farm."
You can search for plants or animals by your postcode or search for a specific plant or animal — the search tool represents "is the first step in investigating what might be possible on your farm and where possible a range of resources and links have been provided to assist you to continue your investigation into a particular crop or animal."
Read case studies on farmers who have successfully diversified their farming business.
FarmDiversity.com.au also provides a list of 10 questions that you should ask yourself before starting down the diversification journey:
- What is your farming lifestyle?
- What personal interest do you have in the proposed enterprise or venture?
- Can you afford to lose the money invested in a new enterprise or venture?
- Are you comfortable with taking risks?
- If you have decided upon a specific industry or venture, do you have easy and free access to research and information?
- Can the proposed enterprise/venture be produced in your area?
- Can you describe the proposed end-product to be sold?
- Is there an established market or demand for the proposed product?
- Is there an established industry and industry body?
- Are there other things that you would rather be doing?
Farm diversification, however, does not necessarily mean venturing into an entirely new enterprise. It can mean integrated or mixed farming — integrated a sheep enterprise with a cropping enterprise, or simply different crop varieties.
As noted by Local Land Services, "Mixed farming is the term that applies to many producers who have diversified their farming across cropping and livestock production. A portion of their farm will be under crop every year and also in a pasture phase where the livestock can be run.
A dairy farm growing quantities of fodder crops and dual purpose crops can also be considered a mixed farm.
Land-holders can dramatically reduce the risked effect of events such as drought and frost by diversifying their farming. Mixed farming can also act as a buffer from global market changes.
Some of the challenges that mixed farmers face include adopting new genetics and varieties, managing pests and diseases, improving animal health and using production systems that preserve and improve natural resources." (NSW Government, Local Land Services)
It's not for everyone, but check out some analysis and stories of diversification below.
- Access the Grain & Graze 2 website, a program that is "strengthening the resilience of mixed farming businesses across Australia by helping farmers to understand complex systems, adapt to market risks and seasonal changes, and to make informed decisions to optimise grain yield and livestock productivity while protecting the environment."
- Robert Bradley, Nuffield Scholar from Tasmania, asked "Should we be mixed farmers?" Read his journey of discovery here.
- Read Rob Egerton Warburton's (also a Nuffield Scholar) presentation on Integrated Stock-Cropping Systems.
- Access Grain & Graze's publication on insights into mixed farming in Australia (below).