Suffolk celebrity stars in self-help videos aimed at helping farmers diversify post-Brexit

Jimmy Doherty at Jimmy's Farm Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Jimmy Doherty at Jimmy's Farm Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

A celebrity Suffolk farm owner features in a series of videos aimed at helping other farmers to branch out post-Brexit.

Jimmy Doherty Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Jimmy Doherty Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Jimmy Doherty, whose farm at Wherstead, near Ipswich, was the focus of hit TV series, has joined forces with rural insurer NFU Mutual to produce the diversification self-help series.

In the course of the five videos he investigates different aspects of planning and running a diversification enterprise alongside farming activities.

Since he took on 100 acres of land more then a decade ago, Jimmy has developed a successful diversified farm including an award-winning restaurant, a nature trail, and a butterfly house, as well as hosting numerous events and festivals.

“Farmers already have a wide and impressive skillset,” he said. “I don’t know many people who can turn their hands to such a range of activities. If you have confidence in your abilities, then the opportunities to diversify are endless. With some imagination, resilience and hard work, you can make a success of it.

“At Jimmy’s Farm, we’ve done everything – from rearing rare breed animals to hosting educational visits – but have had particular success with running events, such as weddings and festivals.

“My experience developing a visitor attraction and wedding venue has taught me that unless you have vast amounts of money, you can’t set up an all-singing, all-dancing wedding venue or festival straight away.

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“Running an events space is a big commitment and responsibility and to have long-term success, your events need to be consistently special and run without a hitch, or your customers will leave dissatisfied.

“You need to try things out, see what works and keep building on your successes.”

Jimmy recommends farmers start planning by walking round their farm with a notebook to identify, buildings, land and natural features which could lend themselves to a public-facing diversification.

NFU Mutual farming specialist Chris Walsh said: “With Brexit approaching and changes to farm support looming, farmers are considering how to future proof their farms. “For some, diversification into non-farming activities offers a lifeline to keep the farm viable and provide opportunities for family members to work in the business.”