It’s almost 20 years since Richard Waring became one of the first farmers in Lincolnshire to diversify – with the launch of Rand Farm Park. It was a real leap of faith for Richard and his wife Kay, but they had little choice. Traditional livestock farming was in the doldrums and taking action was a matter of survival.
Today, they’ve come a very long way from those initial brave steps. The couple head a multi-faceted farm tourism enterprise, which employs 41 people and attracts around 100,000 visitors a year.
This feature interview was first published in issue 39 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine, now available to read at www.lincsbusiness.co. Subscribe to the email newsletter to receive the latest edition in your inbox this Friday.
There’s loads for families to enjoy – with animals to pet and feed, adventure playgrounds to explore, amazing rides, holiday accommodation and a large café. It even hosts children’s birthday parties!
But for Richard it is about much more than running a successful visitor attraction. He and Kay remain absolutely passionate about farming, despite its many challenges.
That is why their business, near Wragby, takes an active role in encouraging young people to discover where their food comes from and to think seriously about agriculture as a future career option.
“When we started out, pig prices were awful and cattle prices weren’t good either. Our son Joshua, was just a year old and we had to do something to survive. So I sold the pigs to start the farm park,” said Richard.
“We were one of the earliest farms in the county to go down the diversification route and we quickly discovered we were on a steep learning curve.
“Going from keeping a pig farm, where we actively discouraged visitors, to doing the polar opposite – by setting-up a farm activity visitor centre and opening our doors to the public – seemed a strange change of mindset.
“We were very apprehensive at the time, but we knew we had to make it work. Failure was not an option. Fortunately, we were able to get support from the European 5B Fund and also a Rural Development Agency Grant and I remember that our bank was also reasonably supportive.”
The Warings started off in a small way with a handful of animals, which visitors could see and touch, a couple of swings outside for youngsters to play on and a very small tearoom. It was a step in the right direction.
“In our first year, we attracted 13,000 visitors, which was more than we had anticipated. Encouraged, we developed our Adventure Playground and extended our tearoom,” said Richard.
That was in 1998. In 2,000, Rand Farm Park opened its first indoor play area, which is still going strong. Then in 2007, this was extended and Richard and Kay responded to public demand by building a farm shop.
The full cover interview with Richard Waring is available to read in full here. Look out for the next edition of Lincolnshire Business magazine, which is published every Friday.