A past and a future for diversification on farms? Some evidence from large-scale, commercial farms in South East England
Diversification has been identified as a common response to the agricultural crisis of the 1980s and to the changing ethos of agricultural policy in the closing decade of the twentieth century. In particular, farmers operating large-scale farms have been prominent in adopting this approach, just as they were innovative across a range of farming practices in the expansion and modernisation of their agricultural production in earlier decades. Can we identify serial diversifiers within this sector of the farming community, who are disposed to react in an entrepreneurial fashion to the changing fortunes of agriculture? The paper draws on results from a survey of large-scale commercial farmers in South East England and, by examining the sequence in which various forms of diversification were adopted, identifies a temporal pattern as farmers responded to the fluctuating fortunes of the agricultural industry over the past thirty years. But has the potential for diversification been exhausted? The paper also considers future prospects for diversification within the large-scale, commercially oriented sector of the agricultural industry.