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Farmers learn secret of successful business

11th January 2007

FARMERS in the Cairngorms are being given the opportunity to become successful businessmen and women thanks to a new project supported by the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Crofters Commission.

One of CNPA’s objectives is to maintain and enhance a productive and viable agricultural sector within the Park. To help meet that, it has joined up with Highland and Islands Enterprise to launch a scheme today (THURSDAY 11th) which will help farmers of all ages within the Park. The launch and photo opportunity is taking place at the Cairngorm Hotel, Aviemore at 1.45pm.

Planning to Succeed is a free training and advice programme which will run over three years. It is being run by agricultural consultants Smiths Gore, who will work alongside a number of outside experts, including bank managers, accountants, vets, tourism providers and representatives from industry, habitat, species and outdoor access. It has already been successfully trialled in Dumfries and Galloway and is now being rolled out in the Cairngorms National Park.

The project will see farmers working in groups with the experts to share good practice as well as explore and examine new business ideas and initiatives. The participants will help to set their programmes and objectives.

Planning to Succeed will be an open project, where all participants will have to present their detailed businesses accounts and management practices to the group for discussion and review. At present it will only be available to farmers living in the Highland area of the Park. It is being run in conjunction with Highland and Islands Enterprise, with the CNPA contributing £28,000 or 60 per cent of the costs for the project.

It has a number of aims including:

  • Improve the physical and financial performance of farm businesses, using a whole farm business planning approach.
  • Increase the confidence and numbers of young people who influence business decisions within the agricultural sector.
  • Influence farmer’s attitudes to change and encourage a more rapid uptake of best practice ideas.
  • Encourage farmers to record data, benchmark their performance against others, and identify ways to achieve better performance.
  • Encourage farmers to set specific goals, objectives and budgetary targets.
  • Encourage the development of systems that reduce production costs, improve physical and financial performance and free up more management time.
  • Increase awareness of the range of markets available for farm produce, and actively encourage means to take advantage of these to improve market returns and add value. Also to seek ways to build relationships and understanding with customers.
  • Encourage farmers to learn from each other and specialist advisors on how to best implement environmentally friendly practices/activities in connection with Land Management Contracts and other support mechanisms, for the benefit of the Park’s special qualities as relevant to their farms, and in collaboration with their neighbours. For example management of water courses and their margins, wetlands, herb-rich grasslands, breeding wading birds, access provision etc.
  • To give participating farmers the skills and confidence to take the project approach to a wider audience after the 3 year project period.

The scheme will run alongside another current CNPA project, the Land Based Business Training Project (LBBTP). LBBTP has a similar ethos and set-up to Planning to Succeed, in that it helps land-based businesses to become more sustainable and viable through providing them with various training support.

Fiona Chalmers, CNPA Integrated Land Management Officer, said: “The CNPA is committed to supporting farmers in making a real success of their businesses. This is an exciting opportunity to help farmers in the Cairngorms to realise that ambition.

“They are under more and more pressure from many quarters and we hope this project will prove to be of practical help. It will provide farmers with resources and materials that are not normally available to them, as well as the opportunity to share good practice and a joined-up approach.

“We are delighted to be involved in this and would encourage farmers to sign up and take advantage of this opportunity.”

Bob Stubbs, Senior Key Industries manager with Highlands and Islands Enterprise said: “This is a scheme that has already been proven to bring tangible and sustained benefits to the farming industry. HIE is delighted to have worked with the CNPA to launch two separate ‘Planning to Succeed’ projects in the Highlands.

“They will enable farmers to apply the very latest business models to their operations and to share and compare their experiences. It is an exercise that brought not only significant economic gain to those who took part in the first pilot, but also assisted participants to examine options for significant decisions such as ownership succession.

“We look forward to assisting and monitoring the project over the next four years and congratulate the vision of those who have agreed to take part.”

For more information on the programme and how to apply please contact Smiths Gore on 01387 274 381.