Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Make the most of what you've got [farmers]

To farmers a badger set is at best a minor irritation and at worst the source of constant worry; in extreme situations, there’s severe economic and emotional loss if Bovine TB strikes.

For a growing number of landowners, badgers are a money-spinner. The Suffolk Wildlife Trust website invites you to “visit the Margaret Grimwade Badger hide for an intimate evening with these sociable mammals” at a cost of £10 for adults and £5 for children, the hide is Spartan and without facilities.

To farmers, the birth of a lamb is just a part of the farming year, whilst to a mother with young children, watching the newborn’s arrival is something wondrous, an event that they will gladly pay to see.

My point is that many of us see the countryside through our farming eyes, in doing so, we may miss the wider opportunity.

In Australia, there’s a small outback, town called Winton which is built on farming’s economic ups and downs. It is remote, arid, and if you drove through it at 5am on a Sunday morning, you’d be forgiven for thinking it is one of those wild frontier, one-horse towns we’ve all seen in the old Westerns. First impressions couldn’t be further from reality.

Winton is a town that has recognised, and built prosperity, from what it has. Its Outback Music Festival – borne from it being the place where the ballad Waltzing Mathilda was written - attracts close to 10,000 people, its Outback Film Festival capitalises on its majestic landscape, welcomes 3,000 visitors and Winton’s investing in a lairage and motel facility to provide an overnight stop for the many ‘road trains’ driving through Australia with freight and livestock.

In Scotland’s countryside, the opportunities are there to be grasped as consumer’s appetites for ‘authentic experiences’ grow. And many of these are easily delivered. For £25 a head you could combine the sharing of your farm and family’s stories on a farm walk, followed by lunch around your kitchen table.

You could copy the badger hide experience by hiring out a simple shelter for ‘twitchers’ to watch birdlife. Or put up a wooden shed and they could stay longer, willingly parting with £500 for a week ‘off-grid’, without mobile phone signal, electricity or running water.

I believe that as we face the inevitable changes resulting from Brexit that tapping into the psyche of our country’s consumers will be a crucial, bringing new income streams for the imaginative. My neighbours think I’m mad in my quest to renovate two old caravans – I will call them retro, glamping accommodation with the most amazing views of Aberdeenshire.

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