Farm lettings

Jon Watson National Trust farm tenant with the flock of Herdwick sheep at Yew Tree Farm

As an organisation, we own 255,000 ha of land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 60 per cent of this land is let out in the form of whole farms. We rely on hundreds of farm tenants to manage our land in ways that support our environmental and aesthetic aims.

Vacant farms, land, or other farming opportunities such as share farming, contract farming and conservation grazing partnerships come up occasionally, and these are usually advertised in the national farming press. 
We want to support sustainable agriculture and ensure that there are enthusiastic and skilled people involved with farming for generations to come. Between 2006 and 2009 we worked with Barclays Bank on a project to deliver integrated skills development and vocational training to the Trust’s 2,000 tenant farmers, new entrants to farming and the Trust’s farm advisors. New to farming? Here's our top tips for making a successful application...

Understand yourself

What are your objectives, strengths and weaknesses? What motivates you? Why do you want this farm? Do your skills and knowledge match the tenant profile/letting particulars for the farm? By being honest with yourself from the start it will save time and energy applying for a farm that is not suitable for you.

Understand the Trust

The Trust is a diverse organisation. If you want to be a farming partner you should understand, and preferably share, its aims. For instance, a true and demonstrable commitment to the natural environment is crucial.

Understand the farm

Why does the Trust own the farm and what is important about it? Answering this key question will help you understand the type of management we would like to see. Read the Whole Farm Plan, if available, and take time to walk around and get a really good feel for the place.

Sell yourself

From the moment you walk on to the farm on viewing day, to the application form, business plan and interview, you should sell yourself by showing good communication skills and a positive approach. Ask questions and don’t hide your skills and enthusiasm under a bushel.

Take your time

Don’t rush the form filling. You might be a brilliant farmer but if your application is poor you might not shine through.

Do the maths

We want your business to succeed. We expect to see thorough business plans that have been well thought out and are realistic. Don’t fool yourself and over-estimate viability and rental value and so on, as the business will fail in the medium term. If you have used an agent to develop a business plan on your behalf make sure you fully understand the figures they have produced. We will probe your figures.

Prepare for the interview

Most applicants have limited experience of formal interviews. If your application and business plan are good you may be selected for interview by a Trust panel which is likely to consist of the Property Manager, Rural Surveyor and Farm and Countryside Adviser. Make sure you prepare thoroughly and practise.

Keep trying

Farm lettings are very competitive. If you don’t succeed at the first attempt then find out what you could improve on and try again when the right opportunity arises. Where tenancy opportunities are sparse consider other options such as joint ventures, contract farming and taking grazing on short term grazing lets to get your foot in the door.

Keep learning

Learning is a continuous process. Regularly assess the skills and knowledge you possess and seek further training and hands-on experience where needed. If you haven’t got enough environmental or farming experience consider volunteer work or find a suitable mentor. It is useful to summarise your skills and ensure you have copies of any qualifications you have achieved that may be relevant to your application.

Ask for help

There are many organisations who offer help with training and personal development such as Fresh Start, Lantra and local colleges. Private consultancies and land agency firms can also assist with farm finding and applications.

Paul Crawley at Courthill Farm, Sussex

Farms to let 

Find out about our current farm lets for tenant farmers. We update the details as and when farms become available, so check back regularly.