Farmers are expected to once again benefit from a boom in rural tourism next summer, with many now earning a major chunk of their income from alternative business activities.

Latest figures reveal farmers across the East of England received 32% of their income from diversified business activities in 2020.

Total income for the region’s farmers fell by 35% last year, from £885m to £471 million, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with £150 million coming from diversified business activities.

With farmers now facing the loss of direct payment subsidies – as the tourism sector accelerates its recovery from Covid – Rupert Wailes-Fairbairn of rural insurance broker Lycetts believes 2022 will be year they reinvent their businesses.

“The vast untapped business opportunities for the sector are clear,” said Mr Wailes-Fairbairn.

“As farmers face burgeoning financial challenges and a period of unprecedented industry change, many will be planning now to protect their financial futures over the next 12 months.

“To help them achieve this, a range of new business activities are likely to be embarked upon, from the hosting of experience days to putting non-productive land to revenue-generating use with the introduction of glamping pods, tent pitches, shepherd huts or yurts.

“Renewable energy projects also promise lucrative opportunities, with operators paying farmers and landowners rents of up to £1,000 per acre.”

Mr Wailes-Fairbairn has also warned of the risks of launching new business ventures in markets where farmers’ experience and expertise can often be limited.

He said: "Tourism-related projects will invariably involve members of the public setting foot on farmland. Health and safety risk assessments, along with measures and procedures to ensure a safe environment, are therefore essential considerations at the design stage.

“Public liability insurance is a must – and insurers may request site inspections to ensure quality standards and requirements are being met.

“Insurable risks for renewable energy projects, meanwhile, can range from those faced during construction, commissioning and testing – including damage during the build, start-up delays and advanced loss of profits – through to a scheme’s day-to-day operation.”

Mr Wailes-Fairbairn pointed out that a surge in the number of farm shops, too, carried important insurance considerations, stating that liability cover is essential.