Farm shifts from beef to badgers
Guardian - Wednesday June 21, 2000
A beef farming couple are selling
their herd because it has proved more profitable to charge
visitors to see a group of badgers living on their land.
Kevin and Anne Atkinson, who have
been beef farmers for 10 years, started their badger watching
business three years ago in order to diversify away from complete
reliance on the crisis hit beef sector.
They spent £12,000 setting up the
venture, including a purpose-built hide on a hillside where
visitors can see around 10 of the animals in the evenings.
Now it is so successful - and the
beef business so bad - that they are selling their 24 cattle and
devoting their time and efforts to the badgers.
They are also hoping to diversify
further by opening up their 60 acre farm, near Tiverton in Devon,
to school parties.
Mrs Atkinson, 43, said: "If we
are to stay on the farm we have to produce an income from the land
and in the current economic climate beef just doesn't do that any
"We had been struggling for
years to make any money. It got to the point where we weren't
making any money at all despite the subsidies.
"This [badger watching]
business is going very well and we are already into profit which
we are really pleased about."
Mr Atkinson, 45, said there had
been three driving forces behind the decision to set up the badger
"The first was the need to
diversify the farm income away from total reliance on the beef
sector which was then severely depressed," he said.
"The second was simply a wish
to share the magical experience of wild badger watching with
"The third was to offer those
who wanted to know more a deeper insight into the complexities of
the natural world."