FOR many farmers, it's their wife who is the backbone of the business. The old saying that behind every successful man is a good woman most certainly applies to farming.

At one time most led a life of drudgery. Hand milking cows, churning butter, or cleaning the paraffin lamps that lit the byres. All that on top of running a big farmhouse and preparing meals for family and farm workers.

Thankfully modernisation has changed all that, and even the tradition of providing meals for farm workers has all but died out. Yet despite that, most farmers' wives are just as busy as ever.

Perhaps the biggest change in Scottish agriculture over the past fifty years has been the dramatic increase in one-man units where the farmer does all the work himself, assisted by his wife when she is available. That's been another of the big changes in recent years - the way many farmers' wives now have a well-paid job off the farm to help boost the farming income. Indeed, in many years that income is all the family have to live on.

On top of that, many wives do the farm accounts and help deal with the mass of paperwork that pours into a farm office nowadays.

Others drive tractors to help with work in the fields or to feed livestock. Indeed, women are far better at rearing calves than men - that's one job where a women's touch makes all the difference.

New entrants to farming often struggle with a shortage of capital and farm income until they get established, while others have inherited small or poor farms that can never be viable. Then there are those farmers who just can't make their farm pay its way no matter how hard they work.

I firmly believe that every farmer who struggles to make a decent living from his farm should sit down and discuss with his wife and advisers what he is doing wrong and what the solutions might be. For some it may well be that there is no future in farming for them. In such instances it would be better for them and their family to give up the farm and find another way of making a living. Life is too short to waste it on a life of drudgery and subjecting the family to stress and hardship. There is no shame in accepting the fact that for various reasons a farm is incapable of providing a reasonable living.

Many may decide they can improve their lot by diversifying their income with part-time jobs like driving lorries, agricultural contracting or providing relief work for other farmers.

Diversification has been one of the buzzwords in recent years, although some ventures have proved to be financial disasters. For instance, about thirty years ago goats which produce luxury fibre such as mohair and cashmere became all the rage. Breeding stock soared in value and those lucky enough to have got in at the start made a lot of money. Suddenly the bubble burst and those who had invested heavily in breeding stock found their animals had become virtually worthless overnight. As one old wag once told me: "It was the surest way of turning a pound into tuppence that I have ever seen".

A surer and popular source of extra income is farmhouse bed and breakfast, which suits those wives with young families who find it hard to take a job away from the farm.

Indeed, tourism is now the lifeblood of many farming businesses. Enterprises range from renting out redundant farm cottages to caravan sites, or open farms where tourists can get close to animals and watch cows being milked from specially constructed observation galleries.

Others have tapped into the growing demand for nature-based tourist activities like bird watching, guided walks, or practical conservation holidays. Nature-based tourism is reckoned to be worth around £1.5bn a year to the Scottish economy and is thought to support the equivalent of 40,000 full time jobs.

Whatever way you look at it, Scotland's beautiful, natural environment is the basis for big business.

Some enterprising farmers have opted to add value to their produce by making the likes of cheese or ice cream, or on-farm butchering and then selling direct to the public at farmers' markets or through farm shops with tea rooms.

More recently there has been a lot of interest in renewable energy. All over Scotland wind turbines have been erected, and hydro-electric schemes and solar panels installed.

With the uncertainties of Brexit looming large, many farmers are looking to safeguard their incomes by diversifying.