It is generally accepted that the income generated from a croft is insufficient to provide for the needs of a crofter and his/her family. Most crofters therefore also have full-time or part-time jobs and many also seek to generate further income from the croft through some form of diversification.
Diversifying Farming Businesses
The UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs produces very useful guidance for farmers who wish to ‘add business activities to traditional farming to develop new sources of income’.
For example, the section on ‘Planning for farm diversification’:
‘About half of all UK farms use some form of diversified activity in their farming business and these bring an average of £10,400 extra revenue per farm. Other benefits of diversifying your farm include:
• making better use of your farm’s physical resources and characteristics
• finding new uses for your existing skills
• integrating your farm with - and recycling money within - the rural economy
You will need to decide from the start what benefits you hope diversification will bring.
There are few limits on the kind of businesses you can diversify into. They can be either agricultural or non-agricultural, such as:
• livestock products - eg producing and selling sheep cheese, llama farms, goat dairying
• crop products - eg growing and selling speciality flowers, energy crops
• retail outlets and catering - eg opening a farm shop
• training and promotion of rural crafts - eg offering dry stone walling workshops
• opening facilities for craft making and retailing
• tourism - eg opening land up for camping or a bed and breakfast’
While this guidance is aimed at farmers, the fundamental principles will also apply to crofters.
SRUC has a useful summary page for the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP), which breaks down the £1.3 billion budget for 2014-2020 into the various support schemes. All of the schemes are detailed on the Scottish Government’s Rural Payments and Services website.
All of this funding is through the EU and so is subject to change once the UK leaves the EU.
Examples of croft diversification
Film-making pioneering fitting in with Hebridean life “at the edge” – ‘KATE HOOPER chats to Beatrix Wood, an artist and film maker now running her own production company from a croft in South Uist’ (West Highland Free Press, 24 February 2017). Beatrix runs her own croft in South Uist, where she has established a herd of White Galloway and traditional Hereford cattle, while giving her the space and often the inspiration to edit and produce her digital productions.
‘Skye crofters apply ancient skills to create sustainable success story’ – a story from The Herald (28 March 2016) about Skyeskyns who produce sheepskin rugs from their tannery on the family croft.