‘Don’t be scared of change’
First generation farmers and entrepreneurs Richard and Fionagh Harding are no strangers to change, having experienced plenty of it in the 17 years since buying their farm in Cornwall. We ask Richard for his advice for farmers facing uncertainty and change.
“Change can be terrifying, but it can also be rewarding,” says Richard Harding.
Over the past 17 years he and his wife Fionagh have experienced huge change in many guises. ‘Midlife crisis number one’ saw them leave London in pursuit of more space in Kent. Two years later they bought a 300-acre farm in Cornwall, moving there with their four young children. A series of further changes followed as the farm and diversification businesses developed and evolved.
While some were well-planned and considered in response to an identified opportunity, others were more urgent and reactive as a result of health issues or family difficulties. But all have led the Hardings to where they are today, with a thriving charcuterie business (Cornish Charcuterie) and Food Enterprise Zone on the farm employing around 30 people.
With a production manager in charge of the farming side, Richard and Fionagh focus on their food businesses. They are currently developing a new venture called Cornish Roots, producing a range of vegan and vegetarian pâtés and dips.
Richard is also setting up an artisan food collective which will bring together similar businesses to benefit from economies of scale and shared distribution channels. “This latest development means a move away from the day-to-day management of the business and further change,” he says.
Don’t face changes alone
When faced with change, he advises farmers to be open-minded and seek as much information as possible. “Speak to others to find out what they have done. Don’t be scared of change – it can be rewarding.” The local farming community has been extremely helpful to the Hardings, who arrived in Cornwall with very little agricultural knowledge. “They have been so generous with their knowledge and time.
“There is a myriad of support and advice out there. Get as much information as you possibly can.”
Once decisions are made, it is then vital to build a strong team, he adds. “I have some awesome people working with me. It would not have been possible without them.”
Read more about Richard and Fionagh’s business in our Member Story.
Farmers are currently seeing the biggest changes in agriculture for more than 50 years. As a mutual insurer, we’ve stood by South West farmers since 1903 and through our Future Farming Programme, we are helping our Members and the wider farming community navigate the changes ahead in this transformative time.Future Farming Programme