New income ideas shared at Great Yorkshire Showground

 In YAS Press Releases

New and emerging opportunities for rural businesses to grow their incomes amid changes to financial support for British farming have been explored at a wide-ranging event held at the Great Yorkshire Showground.

Under the theme Learning Through Land: A Confluence, inspiring speakers were brought together by the Yorkshire Food Farming and Rural Network, a group supported by farming charity the Yorkshire Agricultural Society to champion food, farming and rural interests. The event was kindly supported by Grow Yorkshire, the rural initiative of the York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority.

An audience of agricultural professionals heard about the scope for farm businesses to improve energy efficiency and cut costs from Lisa Howkins, Sales and Marketing Director at NFU Energy, who have recently completed free energy audits with 16 Yorkshire farms in collaboration with Grow Yorkshire and funded by the Government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

North Yorkshire farmer Will Raw recommended undertaking an energy audit, having thought he had already done everything he could to improve the farm’s energy efficiency. However, he said he was frustrated that to make his farm almost entirely energy independent by installing a wind turbine with battery storage, he needed a three-phase grid connection; the most common method used by electric grids to transfer power but not widespread in rural areas. Will said. “If the Government want to meet their net zero targets, they are going to have to improve grid connection.”

Mark Cunliffe-Lister of the Swinton Park Estate near Masham told of how the 20,000-acre Estate was entered into the Government’s recent ‘Test and Trial’ Landscape Recovery Pilot Scheme which incentivises large-scale land-use change with public and private funding to produce environmental and climate outcomes. This had led to a programme of peatland restoration and tree planting with “work in progress” to attract private investment, Mark said.

New policies such as Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) whereby developers must deliver a BNG of 10 per cent mean technology is being used to analyse land like never before, said Andy Howard, CEO of CSX Carbon which uses drones to produce data that is analysed quickly to give developers confidence that they are getting what they pay for.

In Malton, Circular Malton and Norton CIC has plans for a Community Anaerobic Digestor to produce feedstock, energy, and fertiliser locally. It also operates Ryedale Remakes, a shop and upcycling workshop space which has saved 540 items from landfill in one year whilst generating a £10,000 turnover. Sue Jefferson, the CIC’s Co-Founder and Director, said: “Market towns and communities are the ideal size to be able to tackle challenges, really take advantage of opportunities and make things happen fast.”

David Kerfoot, CBE DL, introduced the Fix Our Food Commission which seeks to drive change in Yorkshire’s food supply chain, underpinned by the six-year research programme led by the University of York. He said: “I am utterly determined that Fix Our Food will be making a case for a more healthy, sustainable and biodiverse economy in the future.”

Supply chain opportunities that could be unlocked if Drax Power Station near Selby begins generating bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology were presented by Drax Director, Bruce Heppenstall. He said BECCS can aid the UK’s net zero emissions ambitions by capturing carbon dioxide released from the combustion of organic material in disused gas fields under the North Sea. The £2bn-plus project would utilise existing pipelines and would create about 10,000 jobs.

Bruce said there is “huge scope” to scale up the “tiny fraction” of biocrops grown in the UK, adding: “There should be direct incentives for growers because there is a global market for biomass, and a land use framework that puts the use of energy crops higher up the agenda. We know there are areas where more biomass could be grown.”

Madge Moore, Chair of the Yorkshire Food Farming and Rural Network said: “I was delighted to see so many people attending and listening to our varied range of speakers who willingly shared their experiences in growing and adapting their businesses in challenging times. There was a real buzz from the audience so I hope people went away with a whole range of ideas that they could put into practice in their own rural business.”

Mark Blakeston, Business Lead for Grow Yorkshire, said: “We were proud to support this inspiring and thought-provoking event. To ensure a bright future for Yorkshire’s farmers, we need to capitalise on our region’s unique rural heritage whilst working with those at the cutting edge of science to ensure that we stay at the forefront of innovation in this fast-moving sector.

“Grow Yorkshire is doing this by connecting farmers with innovative, fresh ideas of the kind that were on display in Harrogate today. Whilst Grow Yorkshire very much supports food production as the priority, it was great to hear about the range of ways farmers can diversify their income streams, becoming more resilient and more sustainable.”


New and emerging opportunities for rural businesses

(L-R) Andy Howard, Will Raw, Sue Jefferson, Bruce Heppenstall, Madge Moore, David Kerfoot, Lisa Howkins, Mark Cunliffe-Lister


  • Registered charity, Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) is proudly at the heart of Yorkshire’s farming, food and countryside: now and forever.
  • YAS supports and promotes the farming industry through events, training, grants, bursaries, scholarships, education, scientific research, practical support and stakeholder engagement.
  • YAS is supported by its family of businesses, Fodder, Yorkshire Event Centre, Pavilions of Harrogate and the Harrogate Caravan Park as well as events Great Yorkshire Show and Springtime Live.
  • Businesses and events held at the Great Yorkshire Showground in 2019 contributed £73.7 million to the economy.

Ben Barnett
YAS Public Relations Officer
T: 01423 546016

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