Savills plc

12/02/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/02/2021 06:05

Why the countryside must adapt to new challenges and new customers

To many of us working in the rural sector at the moment, it feels as if we're caught in a perfect storm.

There are three crucial demands. Firstly, food security and that we produce enough home-grown produce to weather global pandemics and rising food prices. Secondly, that we take on the challenge of the climate crisis and help to provide solutions, both by cutting our own emissions and storing away the carbon that the nation produces. And thirdly, the general public is counting on the countryside both to restore biodiversity and provide them with more and more leisure options as they choose to holiday at home.

The silver lining is that interest in the rural sector has never been greater. Far from being the country cousin in the nation's GDP, rural is very firmly front and centre, which means there are more opportunities than ever before.

However, for many farms and estates, trying to meet all three of these demands unilaterally might be a sure-fire road to failure. Instead, those who own, run and manage rural businesses would be better advised to pause and take a good look at what their particular farm or estate can offer: which of the three demands are they best equipped to meet?

To do this, and to do it well, farms and estates need to know who their customers are and what they want. For the last 40 years, the ultimate customer has been a slightly distant concept - a faceless bureaucrat signing the Basic Payment Scheme cheque. Now, whether that customer is a national supermarket, a local farm shop or a honeymooning couple in a yurt, estates need to know exactly what their requirements are - and increasingly, those will include proof of green credentials and carbon-cutting measures.

Reaching net zero informs every element of business. With deadlines as close as 2030, companies are realising that action needs to be taken now. Farmers and rural business owners who can't adapt will find they lose their market. But is that such a terrible thing in a world where we clearly need to do things differently?

For the future of farming, at whatever scale, we need to accept that the present demands will prompt some to leave the fray. That, though, will create much needed space for new farmers and rural business managers, leading to more entrepreneurial ways of farming and profitably diversifying the use of our much-loved rural landscape.

Further information

Contact Andrew Harle

See Aspects of Land Autumn/Winter 2021 for more rural news and points of view