For my first post on the new website, I thought I would offer a little of our own experience as small scale producers, and how we have diversified what we do to maximise the returns we get from our smallholding here in Wensleydale. We are in the same situation as many small-scale producers, trying to be innovative in order to make a profit.
As sheep enthusiasts we decided when buying our smallholding nearly three years ago, that we would like to keep some sheep. We decided on Wensleydales as they were the local breed and the fleece was highly sought after. From a new start we now have a flock of 14 breeding ewes which we have just finished lambing, with another four from last years lambs to add next year’s breeding flock (2017 was a male dominated year unfortunately!!) . We took a chance this year on a home-bred tup, Elmfield Albert, and we have been delighted with him, with the ewes scanning at 170% and some lovely lambs being produced. I have included a short video of me being hands on with one of this year’s arrivals.
Selling the produce traditionally through the marts was always going to be difficult, so we immediately decided that the fleece was going to be the primary purpose of breeding the Wensleydales. Through the wonders of online marketing and social media (neither of which I profess to have a great grasp of) we now sell the fleece, yarn for knitting, crochet and weaving and garments from our sheep all over the world. We have had orders from Russia, China, Finland, USA, Slovakia, Italy, France, Norway, Sweden, Canada and Australia as well as the UK. These orders have been generated via our own website www.shearwensleydale.com as well as online platforms such as Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Ravelry. We sell in small and large quantities and in the last year we have seen sales grow significantly. We are not making a fortune, but along with the B&B and holiday cottage we operate on site we have managed to develop a sustainable enterprise, with additional potential in the future.
Diversification nearly always requires an upfront capital investment and there are lots of lenders who are keen to work with businesses to help them expand and diversify. We enjoy working with businesses to help you realise your goals. Between Kirsty and I, we have the practical experience as well as the professional experience and qualifications as a chartered surveyor and law graduate to assist you with a range of finance requirements. Please do get in touch with me if you would like to talk through any ideas you have, even on an informal basis.