By Olivia Cooper

South-west correspondent

CORNWALL HAS become the first county to implement DEFRA”s Fresh Start programme, designed to help people enter farming, restructure their businesses or retire with dignity.

The scheme will provide a unique matchmaking service for those wishing to enter or leave the industry, or expand through joint ventures. It will also offer professional advice, independent business support, training and mentoring to help ensure the long-term success of any new ventures.

“It is essential, if farming in Cornwall is to have a positive, vibrant future, that we change the age profile, enabling those who want to leave the industry to make a graceful exit and smoothing the path for bright young men and women to get into farming,” said Anthony Gibson, south west director of the NFU. “Fresh Start offers the industry an opportunity to strengthen itself from the very core.”

Project co-ordinator Charlotte Woodford said she hoped that capital loans for new entrants and tenants would be available by July. The Cornwall Agricultural Council, which pioneered the scheme, may also work alongside the ARC Addington Fund to provide affordable rural housing in the future, she said.

“Cornwall is the first part of the UK to roll out Fresh Start and it”s now being seen as a model for the rest of the country to follow. Fresh Start will play a vital role in helping people move in, on or out of the industry.”

Tenant farmer Wayne Jeffrey, who hosted the launch at Higher Carvinack Farm near Truro, Cornwall on Tues (Mar 22), said that Fresh Start would have been a great help in securing his entry into farming, which took place only in September after 10 years of trying.

Mr Jeffrey said the mentoring part of the scheme would have been hugely beneficial to him when he started, by offering guidance on government requirements, insurance and trade contacts, for example.

“There is so much legislation you”ve got to learn and when you”re an employee you don”t get a clear view of it all.”

Business advice should also help new entrants to secure overdrafts and help in the buying or tendering process, he added.

olivia.cooper@rbi.co.uk