Businesses sharing common interests can reap mutually beneficial results.

This is particularly true for farmers who work well with local, rural businesses to form supportive networks. As well as making for smoother arrangements between suppliers and customers, working collectively means an entire area can benefit from the success of others.

The benefits of having deep roots in a community is well-known to NFU Mutual which has over 300 branches in towns and villages throughout the UK and has worked closely with partners in these communities for over 100 years.

One of NFU Mutual’s customers is Jimmy Doherty, the Suffolk-based TV presenter and rare breed pig farmer, who says although some businesses might be against working closely with competitors, maintaining close working relationships can prove vital in both good times and bad.

He said: “We used to hold a farmers’ market once a month at Jimmy’s Farm and would invite other meat producers and we would have competitions to celebrate the work of other sausage producers.

“The competition around here is getting better which is healthy for all of us. I believe the more there are the more we all benefit. The winners are the consumers who know there is some great produce available and that results in creating a vibrant market for all.

“It’s about being inclusive, there’s no point in trying to keep it all to yourself.”

The value of collaboration between businesses extends beyond those who might be deemed as direct competitors and into a wider network. Trust built up over a number of years can provide a solid foundation which means a helping hand is reciprocated when it’s needed most.

As Jimmy observes: “I remember a couple of years back we had a gap in our finances where we had to invest  a certain chunk of money and it meant that we were going to be slightly late paying some of our invoices by about a month. We spoke to those suppliers and they were like ‘yeah, fine, no worries’ because we had communicated it.

“Equally you’ll have other food suppliers who say ‘we’ve got this new product in the pipeline, will you trial it for us?’ and we help promote them in our restaurant.

“We support lots of local businesses and we can’t function effectively without the support from those same local businesses.”

NFU Mutual Agent Jill Girling, who has a close working relationship with Jimmy through the Ipswich branch, says cultivating long-standing partnerships is important.

She said: “We’re nice and local to Jimmy, so it’s easy just to pop in. So if there’s something that needs resolving, we can come and sort it out quickly in person.

“We’ve worked with Jimmy and his business for a number of years and seen it grow and develop. This means you can understand where everything started and where it is heading. An ongoing relationship means you can quickly understand any business challenges without having to go back to the beginning for an explanation.”

Jimmy added: “With Jill it’s a face-to-face relationship and she will come down here and I’ll say, we’ve had a cow go through the fence, or we’ve had a tree fall onto the digger - all those types of things, and it’s good to be able to have a conversation with someone who understands the business and can help straight away. And often, once you’ve dealt with the claim or other business, we can have a cup of tea and a chat.”

  • Jimmy Doherty has become an ambassador for Farm Essentials - NFU Mutual's new insurance product for smaller farms