Oaks Barn Farm - A diversification case study
Wayne and Sue, owners of Oaks Barn Farm based in Warwickshire, are always finding fun ways of making a living off the land on their family farm. Now in their 15th year of running their family farm stay, they love to find innovative ways to enjoy life. After attending Farm Business Innovation Show for several years, Wayne and Sue have shared their experiences of the show, how it helped them through their diversification journey and what they are most looking forward to this year.
What was your main reason for attending the show in previous years?
We wanted to gain inspiration on how others farms were diversifying.
What was your highlight of the show?
We loved seeing that many farms had diversified into providing wedding venues.
What did you learn about diversification? Was there anything significant that you had not thought about/considered before?
We expanded our Hot Tub provision to include a salt water Spa with each property thankfully this was with a UK manufacturer who have supplied all three of our Hot Tubs, little did we know that the season ahead would see all of them empty due to COVID-19.
Did you implement anything you learned? If so, how has this impacted your business? Please provide examples.
In lockdown we built a commercial Pizza Oven, and now deliver Pizza Experience Nights at Oaks Barn Farm. We also built a covered outside dining area to cater for COVID-19 compliance. We also built a new agricultural barn and currently have a planning application in for running it as an Events Barn.
Why did you diversify?
Whilst diversification seems to be the in-vogue strapline, we prefer to see what we do as finding innovative ways to enjoy life and love what we do, this ranges from air rifle and pizza nights through to axe throwing workshops and raising pigs.
What key lessons did you learn along the way?
Maintenance is key, any infrastructure is exciting in the developmental stage, but the key to success is recognising the long term commitment to maintaining the infrastructure beyond the initial investment.
How have you made your farm sustainable?
Initially growing and rearing what we could, producing our own Lamb, Pork, wine, to name just a few and as our business grew we looked for ways of producing our own power by a solar install and more recently developing a biomass district heating system.
What has been your greatest achievement?
I’d like to say building our events barn but more honestly for me, it was surviving bowel cancer, and not letting it stand in the way of achieving our dreams.
How is your work life balance?
This summer with the boom to the UK Staycation Market, I would have to confess not good, working long hard hours making everyone else’s holiday one to remember, whilst facing up to the reality that we had no time to ourselves. However, being busy has allowed us to grow.
What livestock do you farm?
Sheep, pigs and chickens currently though Goats and Donkeys have not been ruled out.
What impact did COVID-19 have on your business?
Like everyone, this was not a situation we had envisaged, we had a full summer order book yet one by one our guests canceled repeatedly moved bookings and our income stopped literally overnight. We were able to refund or move 100% of our bookings and our guests were very understanding. We used the time constructively and invested heavily in our infrastructure, we built a commercial pizza oven, built a new Barn and developed an outside dining area.
Keeping staff and guests safe became our priority, we developed safe working practices and gained AA Covid Confidence Status, Visit Englands Good To Go Award, and World Travel & Tourism Council Safe Travels Status.
What are you most looking forward to seeing at this year's show?
We are looking to increase our solar generation on the farm and also need some more information on battery storage and air source heat pumps. In addition we are considering installing a bore hole on the farm to supply off grid water.
Social media accounts:
The Granary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMnGeDZ0Kos
The Coach house https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yz6TRvDi3-I
Shepherd’s View https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUJ9Ip0U2fM
Images courtesy of Farmers Guardian