Agricultural Diversification. An Essential Business Tool?

‘Standing still is nothing more than to go backwards’ (P. T. Barnham)

When my sister and I decided to return to the family farm five years ago, we made, together with the rest of our family, the decision that we needed to develop our business into something that was more than just ‘straight agriculture’.

We spent many hours throwing around ideas, wondering whether we had the ability to breed alpacas, create a ‘fun run’ enterprise or the strength of character required to distill gin without taste testing to excess. After much deliberation, collectively, we decided to renovate an old barn in the centre of the farm which was in a poor state of repair and provide high quality accommodation in Owmby, just on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Agricultural diversification - the old granary groundworks

How it all Began

The ‘combine shed’ as it was previously known had already been through a number of permutations. Originally used as an old granary, horse drawn carts would pull up alongside and 50kg bags of grain would be humped up the old steps to the first floor for storage. Once sold they would be thrown out of the top window (the bedroom window in The Mill) onto another cart to be taken to market. The floor has always remained in good condition, testament to the way it was constructed all those years ago, ready to hold tens of tons of grain for months on end. The arrow slits ensured regular movement of air to prevent damp grain and some of the original beams (in the kitchen in the Mill) show marks where farm staff used the wood to count sacks of corn.

When modern machinery began to make its way into agriculture following the Second World War, the grain dryers were installed. A large pit held all the grain tipped from a trailer, where it was fed through to a slow conveyor system through high temperatures to dry the grain to a specific moisture. The pit was behind the east end wall of the Gables and the grain was fed up the wall of the living room in the Gables into the adjacent shed which stood where the patio now is. Access out of the main door in the Gables used to be difficult, as a large metal pipe cut straight across the centre of it.

Once the more modern drying system at the rear of the farm was installed in 2002, the apparatus in the granary was removed and the ‘combine shed’, too small for modern machinery became a general storage area.

The Build

We started the renovation in November 2017, and it was completed just over a year later, in December 2018. We have been extremely lucky as the whole team of people working on the build have been incredibly supportive, creative and above all patient.

Throughout the build we focussed on three main areas.

  1. Creating exceptionally high quality self- catered accommodation in northern Lincolnshire
  2. Using renewable energy where possible
  3. Retaining the heritage and history of the barn

The main thread that has run through this whole project has been about quality: quality of design, craftsmanship, products, atmosphere. Every decision has been taken with the end result in mind; we have considered our guests at every stage, whether that is someone working in Lincolnshire looking for business accommodation, or using the barn as a base whilst moving house or for a few days away on a rural retreat for a walking and cycling holiday in the country. We want to provide a warm, relaxing place to stay with all the modern technology expected in high quality accommodation. Somewhere you can control the lighting levels, integrate personal accounts (e.g. Netflix) with the Smart TV and enjoy little luxuries, such as the Nespresso coffee machine, at the touch of a button. We aimed to provide a modern space, with clean lines and as much light as possible in the apartments. We chose floating sinks and large, spacious open showers, and created a balcony in the Gables which, above the living room has a unique view of the lighting installed. We retained the height in the open roof and refurbished the rafters. All the walls have been decorated in muted tones to ensure a relaxing atmosphere, perfect when working remotely in contract accommodation.


Our farming business installed solar panels in 2013, which help to supply green energy to the large cold store which houses our potatoes from October until May each year. The recently renovated farm office is heated efficiently using an air source heat pump, so we were very keen to continue ensuring our businesses run as sustainably as possible. To complement this, we also installed an air source heat pump to provide the heating and instant hot water to all three apartments. We use a Mitsubishi EcoDan pump installed by Pure Renewables based in Yorkshire. We have used high spec insulation throughout the building on all external walls as well as between flats to maintain an efficient heat loss, this is combined with a special sound reducing insulation and Stadip Silence Glass to ensure the internal environment is as calm and quiet as possible, however much farming machinery is in use outside.


Our family have been based here for three generations and it is important to us that we retained as many of the original features as possible. In order to conserve as much heritage and history as we could, we knew we needed to use a specialist builder and window company to protect and replicate the original features of the barn. We have worked with Homecrafts a number of times before and have been so pleased with all of their work. Carl and his team arrived in November 2017 and hardly had a day’s rest until the project was completely finished! They used traditional materials including lime mortar for repairing walls, to mimic the original processes, and worked closely with our architect (Flynn Architecture Ltd) to fulfill all the agreed requirements.

Homecrafts are also traditional joiners and talented window makers and provided solid wood windows in the original style of the building. They also designed, built and installed an internal hard wood staircase and solved the problem of blocking out light from the small arrow slits at night time around the building, by designing some fabulously stylish ‘hobbit doors’! More than all of this, they made a challenging project a very enjoyable one.

Agricultural diversification - the old granary groundworks

Spinning Plates!

We have found that diversification in farming can be a challenging prospect, and although we expect it to prove important as a business decision, it has been a valuable exercise to travel this road together as a family. I’d recommend anyone considering a business change or addition to your farming portfolio to go for it, enjoy the bumpy path and focus on the end goal. Work together, compromise and listen. Its all worth it at the end.

As a family we have developed this project at the same time as running a farm, going through a house move, a pregnancy, the welcoming of a newborn, having three older children in the mix and the usual chaos that life usually brings. It would be safe to say that it has not been an easy task, and there have been ups and downs, tough decisions and many changes of plan. But now that we have completed our three beautiful self-catering accommodation apartments we are delighted to have welcomed our first guests to The Old Granary and are really looking forward to the next year providing many more people with a warm ‘home away from home’, a place to relax, work or entertain.

We’d love to hear from you if you are interested in finding out more about the barn renovation, or if you would like to stay in any of the three apartments that are the finished (fabulous) result, please contact us