Article - Ancient rural habits can help us prosper in the new world

One of the marvellous things about West Dorset is the unexpected enterprises that one finds flourishing in the most unlikely places.

Last week I visited an out-of-the-way farmhouse near Beaminster to discuss the availability of high-speed broadband.

Once we had finished the discussion, I was shown around the place -- only to discover that the redundant farm buildings were being put to a wholly new purpose.  An enormous smoke-house of hams and salamis and other meats had been established in this ostensibly unpromising location.  And the business was clearly prospering.

A quick taste of some of the produce sufficed to explain the success of the enterprise: the smoked meats proved to be absolutely delicious.

These 'small businesses' make a contribution to the local economy that isn't 'small' at all: several local people had already been provided with jobs -- with every sign that there would be more to come.

I have discovered innumerable examples of similarly imaginative new businesses dotted around the rural areas of Dorset - many engaged in producing things or providing services that one wouldn't have found hereabouts a few decades ago.   Some of them are using technologies that didn't exist until very recently.  Others are doing things like making wine, which wouldn't have been regarded as serious businesses in England when my children were growing up.

What most of these businesses share is quality: they succeed not because they are doing something quaint and rural but because they are exploiting the advantages of a rural location to produce something of high quality that their customers or clients actually want to buy.

This, right here in rural West Dorset is the future for Britain.

In all of the discussion about tariffs and free trade following the Brexit vote, there is a danger that we could become fixated with the effects of things like tariffs, customs bureaucracies and exchange rates.  All of these things do matter, of course.  But the essence of trade is actually the ability to make things and do things that people want to have - which depends on them being excellent rather than merely mediocre.  It's things like design, imagination and quality of execution that really make a difference in the long run.

To be up with the best in the world, we certainly need to use the latest techniques and the most modern technologies.  But we need to combine these with attitudes that have been present in Dorset for centuries - an eye for detail and an unhurried attention to getting things right.

Ancient rural habits can help us prosper in the new world.