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Creating a business to last through the seasons

The Hoffmans' accommodation venture is thriving as they survive the recession

DEVELOPING a non-farming sideline has been vital in helping many farmers survive the recession and in Robert Hoffman's case the potential for additional earnings lay on his doorstep.

Robert and his wife Sandra have converted a derelict farmhouse on their land into a thriving rural accommodation business after spotting an advertisement in the farming press from a British company looking for rural cottages to rent out to tourists.

The Hoffmans and their eldest son milk 100 cows on their 170ac farm in Annascaul on the Dingle Peninsula.

Five generations of Hoffmans have lived on the farm and the original plan for the derelict cottage was to demolish it and build a new home for one of their sons.

That plan changed once they spotted the ad from the Hoseasons Holidays' company and five years later they haven't looked back. The farmhouse is full most of the year -- families taking up occupancy during the summer, and older couples accounting for the bulk of the winter business.

"Eighty if not 90pc of our guests are English," said Robert. "And surprisingly for the majority of them it is their first time in Ireland."

Living for a few weeks on a working farm appeals to a lot of urban visitors, says Robert.

"The children love going to see the cows getting milked. They are fascinated that it comes out warm, not chilled the way it is in the shop.

"A flexible attitude and knowing how to keep your distance are also important in making the business work," says Robert.

"The farmhouse accommodation business is not for everyone; if you're not flexible it's hard to run a good business."

Farmers looking at renting accommodation to holidaymakers should consider linking up with a company such as Hoseasons Holidays, he adds. The company takes care of advertising the cottage to its extensive client base and this takes a lot of the stress out of the business for the Hoffmans.

Visit the Hoseasons Holidays exhibition at Stand 756, Row W, Block 1.

Indo Farming