Diversifying with wildflower seeds and sheep

The UK agricultural sector is undergoing the biggest policy shake-up in 60 years, which leaves diversification as a vital business strategy.

As government support for farmers faces a radical overhaul, the replacement of the BPS with Environmental Land Management (ELM) will focus many on how businesses not only survive, but thrive.

If we all accept that farming is going to change rapidly, now is the time to embrace the opportunities ahead.

One of Bradford Estates’ values is to be inventive. Seeds and sheep are among the first areas for diversification.

Bradford Green is a new business launched to grow wildflower seeds for the wholesale market, to be used by a range of end clients including property developers, farms and local authorities.

As well as opening up new commercial opportunities for us, it has allowed us to trial tech including a solar-powered robot which uses GPS to know exactly where it has planted each wildflower seed so it can return periodically to hoe weeds.

New Zealand Romney sheep have been added to the estates as part of a new joint venture, Bradford Sheep, launched as part of our drive to increase regenerative and sustainable farming.

In total, 300 sheep are managed on our land and fit into our arable rotation as part of a project which will see branded lamb go on sale.

We will not be rapidly following in the footsteps of Jeremy Clarkson by opening a farm shop, as we want to understand local demand.

A sensible way to do this is introducing a vending offer, where in time customers can drop in to pick up lamb products and even milk.

With demand for locally brewed beer growing, we would like to attract a microbrewery business to join our occupier community, offering the chance for us to grow malt and barley to be used for their ales.

We are open to any opportunities to leverage the Bradford Estates brand, with other diversifications including more livestock ranges for the meat market and apple juice from an agro-forestry project.

Oliver Scott for Farmers Weekly