New farmers speak up about support for a career in agriculture
Over 35 young people at the start of their farming careers spoke up about the support they need to farm in the Lake District at an event at Cockermouth’s Lakeland Livestock Centre in December.
Organisers, the National Trust and the Lake District National Park Authority were joined by 13 representatives from the Farmer Network, the Herdwick Sheep Breeders Association, the Federation of Cumbria Commoners, Natural England and DEFRA to hear how they can support those who are new to farming.
Amongst those listening was Jeremy Barlow, the National Trust’s head of operations for Cumbria and North Lancashire. He says the well-attended event provided plenty of pointers and inspiration and that the ‘B-word’ - Brexit - was barely mentioned.
“We heard from sons and daughters of farmers as well as those coming into the profession with no family history of farming” said Jeremy Barlow.
“There was a clear call for more opportunities to get on the farming ladder including starter farms. People also asked for signposting to advice, grants, support and training. They also wanted plenty of notice of when farms come up for let and guidance on what constituted a good business plan."
“We had a good discussion about people wanting farm lets to be advertised widely but also wanting us to go direct to those who showed a clear match between skills and experience for a particular farm."
“Certainly the lack of opportunity to take on a farm was a key issue for many but new entrants should take heart. Over the last 30 years, the average age of a UK farmer has steadily increased, it’s now 59-years-old, which means many will be retiring in the next decade or so creating opportunities for the next generation. One message for me is that we need to support new entrants as much those who are looking to retire."
“Given the size of our landholding here in the Lake District, about 20% with 90 farms, we simply can’t look after the land in our care without hardworking, skilled farmers. We rely on this vital partnership to ensure our land is healthy, rich in wildlife and delivering benefits for the public. We want to see farming and conservation working together and traditional breeds thriving including our 21,000 strong landlord flock of Herdwick sheep.”
According to Jeremy one of the positive take home messages is the passion and determination to farm coming from those at the event.
Jeremy said: “For some, it’s about continuing a vital tradition of hill farming, for others they are driven by a deep interest in land management.”
The evening also provided an opportunity for attendees to find out from Neil Johnston, the National Trust’s Food & Farming Adviser, what sort of tenant the Trust is looking for and they heard from other key sources of support.
Kate Gascoyne and Viv Lewis explained in their presentation what business support is on offer for through a Farmers Network project aimed at 18 to 30-year-olds. It helps those who want to develop, or set up, a farming or farming related business but are limited by resources or opportunities available to them.
Kate gave some case studies of people who had been through the project and developed successful businesses.
Viv also summarised the key skills needed to be a successful hill farmer - a great introduction to the group discussion sessions which were part of the three hour event.
“This is an exciting time for farming” added Jeremy Barlow. “It is more important than ever for young people in the industry to speak up and speak out. For the many new farmers in the room making a start can seem daunting. They had questions about the opportunities, finances and business planning as well as training and all the organisations attending the event want to help them."
“It was heartening to hear that they wanted more events like this and we are already looking into holding another one in March in the south of the county” said Jeremy.
Anyone who is interested in finding out more, or who wants to attend the next new farm entrants event should contact the National Trust’s Farming Adviser Project Manager William.Cleasby@nationaltrust.org.uk