Entrepreneurship and diversification on English farms: Identifying business enterprise characteristics and change processes

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Despite the growing importance attached to entrepreneurship as a policy concept in European Union (EU) agriculture, little assessment has been made of its practical application. This paper makes a preliminary consideration of the issues in relation to on-farm diversification. First the literatures on agricultural diversification and innovation are reviewed to establish entrepreneurial traits in (1) business change processes, and (2) business enterprise characteristics. The business enterprise characteristics are then used to identify entrepreneurial diversified businesses from a sample of 118 agricultural enterprises in England. Some 15 entrepreneurial farm businesses were identified and their managers interviewed to reflect on the underlying change processes that they had adopted during 1997-2001; the effects of diversification in terms of socio-economic benefits at business and regional levels; and the effectiveness of agricultural business advice services in supporting entrepreneurial behaviour. Respondents confirmed the importance of networking processes to managing change in their businesses. Importantly all had benefited from diversification, through increased net income, reduced dependence on agricultural subsidies and greater income stability during the survey period. Regional economic benefits were more difficult to quantify, although positive employment generating effects were evident among businesses. Importantly respondents commented on their disengagement from sectoral extension agencies in contrast to their enthusiastic use of generic business support. Consequently, consideration is made of adjustments in extension and advisory provision to enhance on-farm entrepreneurial diversification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-236
Number of pages24
JournalEntrepreneurship & Regional Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009


  • agricultural change
  • diversification
  • entrepreneurship


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