A fresh start ?
A sustainable farming industry needs a sustainable workforce.
That sounds simple but it’s an area in which, as an industry, we are falling short of achieving success. The challenge comes in two forms. First we must encourage and, where possible, create an unhindered pathway into the industry for new entrants – whether as farmers and growers or those seeking careers in management on farms or related businesses. Second, we have to find exit strategies for farmers who want to wind down, or end completely, their engagement with practical agricultural production.
Fresh Start, part of the Sustainable Food and Farming Initiative, is bringing together industry stakeholders from NFU and CLA to Young Farmers Clubs, banks, advisors, rural churches and farming industry
professionals to focus on the new entrant issue. Just having everyone round the same table with a common agenda is a gain in itself.
Fresh Start is seeking original and imaginative routes to bring together the experience and resource of retiring farmers and the drive, enthusiasm and energy of a new generation. We are also, where appropriate, encouraging succession within farming families though it has almost become an act of faith to encourage the next
generation to do anything but farm!
Once in a business start up – as a first generation farmer,
succeeding family member or in some business related to the farming and food chain – further help is often needed, help that can be provided by more experienced operators. This is the second string to the Fresh Start bow – the mentoring service.
Neither matching nor mentoring are fully up and running in all regions, but pilots are underway as we seek to work with existing projects, initiatives and organisations.
Crucially, Fresh Start has a third string to its bow. We are working with the industry’s care organisations – Arthur Rank Centre, Farm Crisis Network, Rural Stress Information Network – to identify farmers who want to retire and need an exit strategy.
The Single Farm Payment offers opportunities on this front for new entrants to work with retiring farmers, using the single payment to provide on-going income over the transition period for the farmer. This can be used to lower rent, encourage a share or contract deal for the new generation and the possibility of a genuinely profitable partnership.
There are issues to be addressed including housing provision so that both partners can ‘live on the
job’ and the development of a mechanism to bring potential, co- operating partners together. Fresh Start is working with partners nationwide to identify and try to solve these problems.
Solutions are available. The challenge of managing 120 dairy cows single handed or finding profit from arable acres may seem a daunting challenge to a 60-year old farmer with no succession, but look like a golden opportunity to get a foot on the ladder to an energetic 30 year old couple.
We have to be realistic about the industry. We do not want to encourage young people to be over optimistic when times are genuinely difficult, but the truth is that new, successful and profitable businesses will be launched in the months and years ahead and Fresh Start wants to facilitate their launch wherever possible.
Anyone interested in the project – either as new entrant or as a potential retiring farmer – can get in touch with Fresh Start via the national co-ordinator, Steve Lindsay at Steve.Li
or Chairman of the Stakeholder Group, Denis Chamberlain via denis.ch
or on 07860 680 800.
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