Big Sheep Little Cow – Pros and Cons with diversification

Big Sheep Little Cow was set up in 1989, so its the longest lasting diversified farm that I’ve properly researched into. It was brought to my attention at Beadlam Grange that experience is the most important thing for farm diversification, and Big Sheep Little Cow had it in abundance. The reason for the farm being set up was because people were ‘loosing touch with nature’, so they wanted to introduce the public to animals a lot more; many people didn’t have the chance to play, touch and smell animals, so Big Sheep Little Cow offered that experience in a fun and interesting way with tours around the farm. In the years prior to 2009, everything had run smoothly and very successfully, but in 2009 they experienced one case of E coli 0157 in November and in April. A frightening experience for the farm, and something that got in the way of the business objective of teaching the public about farm animals. The bacteria is prevented by washing the hands thoroughly after coming into contact with animals. She still felt that people need to learn about animals, but if the close contact will be a risk to the business then maybe its not the best idea.

Furthermore in 2009, the credit crunch effected the business, because they had to change there market from families (because they didn’t have as much disposable income) to the older population, because they can after to spend money on quality produce. So they are concentrating on providing good quality food.

Flooding accured in 2012, which resulted in the plan to build buildings to block the river from effecting the site. It cost £80,000 to repair the damage to the flood, a lot of which was on the insurance, but they need to address the issue so it didn’t halt business for the farm. The buildings that are being built by the river are a further diversification with the plan to have a music venue where people can enjoy good music and good food. A lot of research has been carried out for these diversifications, and in the current economic climate with people having less disposable income, it seems the right option to give people a unique experience that isn’t available in anywhere else in the area.

With the horse meat scandal that occurred, its made people think about where their food is coming from. This has made people distrust the large supermarkets. The horse meat scandal exposed that supermarkets do not trace where there food is coming from. Therefore, local farmers and retailers need to educate people in meat quality; with the effects bad meat would have on their health. Regardless of this, consumers are priced out of a return or introduction to good quality meat from farms and local retailers because of the economic climate. But maybe if they were educated a bit more about the positives of sourcing their food locally, then it will create a shift in spending. There might be a period of immense change, because the world population is growing and the demand for food is growing. China is demanding an increase in diary products, so its a good time to be a producer (farmer) but there will always be a demand for cheaper food. The spending on food has gone down in relation to other things. The way to live well is to eat well and exercise well and thats the only way our bodies will keep at older ages, so the spending on food should really take a bigger priority in our spending.

Ass1 - Black sheep (2)

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall has a production company who wanted to film the watermill creating bread, people capitalised on this and decided to make bread in order to be filmed. The bakery (building owned by Carol Clark) captured the imagination of people because it stuck a cord with people for locals to come together, there are still people coming in to see about the progress of the mill. People need to be educated with things, and a great tool for this is the television. Facebook and twitter is also the way forward because thats where people are, people engage with it and news is presented to them without much effort, so its a great tool for ideas to be spread and contacts to be made.

The real key to farm diversification is for the owners to like people, to be people people, because the general public are difficult to deal with, and to make money in farm shops and cafes involves a person culture.

‘Person culture organisations focus on the people working within the organisation as they rely on the specialist knowledge of the workforce. Person cultures are found in organisations where there is an opportunity for employees to develop their career and skills. Examples include universities where staff can continue their education throughout their employment. Person cultures also include legal and accountancy firms, as the organisation is selling the specialist skill of its staff ; this creates a need for staff to undergo continuous professional development’

All the farms that I’ve visited are incredibly warm and the feel of each farm is something to be admired. In supermarkets and other large shops that sell food, you don’t get that impression. Having skilled employees who are motivated by their passion for the job is the best option for business’. ‘If you welcome people with respect as they walk into your shop, generally its a very funny person who doesn’t give you that respect back and thats one of the building blocks of humanity, and I would hope we could always retain that whatever happens’ and all the farm shops I have visited have lived by that, but supermarkets do not give an impression like that.

Ass1 - Claire

Also for small business’ in general, a key to success is learning from your mistakes. If you act on the external changes to the business environment then you will emerge when others fail to adapt. Through farm diversification in general, farmers have adapted to the changes in the economic climate and retained stability, but their achievements have gone unnoticed in the face of the supermarket giants. Change and education is needed, and the media is the way to publicise that change. Carol has adapted her business after the E coli, the credit crunch and the flooding, and emerged with a stable business who plan to build a music venue to appeal to more consumers and to prevent the river from reaching the farm. Big Sheep Little Cow is the prime example of farm diversification, person culture and adaption. If their story could be known by people, then the people will judge whats best for the economy.


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