The View from Northern Ireland:  The College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise  (CAFRE) in Northern Ireland is hosting a diversification awareness visit at Ian McMaster’s farm, a Focus Farm, in Broughshane on Tuesday 17 September from 10am – 12.30pm.

The visit is targeted at anyone interested in learning more about diversification and the steps and stages involved in making a business idea a profitable reality.

Third-generation arable farmer, Ian McMaster made the decision in 2000 to add value to his potato crop. Farming 100 acres of arable land, Ian experienced poor prices that year. He noticed however that the processor sector was thriving. From this simple observation a potato processing business was created and the Chip Master was born.

McMaster established Chip Master, a small potato processing facility in redundant outbuildings producing chips, potato products and prepared vegetable for local hotels and takeaways.

Over the past 13 years he has expanded the business by building a 1000 tonne potato store in 2003 and opening a new factory in 2010, processing 2.5 tonnes of potatoes per hour.  He currently employs 22 people, and has two delivery vehicles supplying food service sector including hotels, restaurants and chip shops within a 30 mile radius of his farm.

McMaster said: “Chip Master was established out of a need to create an additional income stream. The business has created job opportunities for two family members and has maximised the value of the potato crop.”

Farm incomes are under pressure but Ian’s experience highlights how innovative thinking can turn farm diversification ideas into real businesses that generate new income streams and jobs for our rural communities.

Farms families often possess resources that if really exploited could make a contribution to farm income. And sometimes it just takes visiting other farm businesses to recognise that you have something special on your farm in terms of resources, skills or location which in turn can help trigger that new business idea.

During the visit, Ian will explain his entrepreneurial journey including the barriers and successes to give you a real insight into what it is like running a new farm based business. CAFRE’s Rural Enterprise Advisers will also highlight training and support available to help farm families diversify.

By Claire Anderson,Senior Rural Enterprise Adviser, CAFRE

Pictured: Claire Anderson, Senior CAFRE Rural Advisor with Ian McMaster of Chip Master