There may be no lack of youngsters wanting to farm, but there is still a shortage of opportunities to do so.

And finding ways to encourage farmers at or over retirement age to step down is still a big obstacle to freeing up the market.

That was one of the themes at a Fresh Start seminar held in London this week.

The aim was to look at new opportunities for those wanting to get into farming and it follows a seminar last week at Harper Adams that explored the nitty-gritty of how to structure partnerships and joint ventures between retiring farmers and young entrepreneurs.

Identifying older farmers who are ready to step aside is one of the biggest challenges, said project manager Steve Lindsay.

But a new initiative in Sussex could show the way forward. Called the Fresh Start Academy, it aims to train young people keen to farm in everything from Entry Level Stewardship Scheme to local food.

The Young Farmers Club, Business Link and local colleges in East and West Sussex at Brinsbury and Plumpton are providing the advice and training while consultant firm Lawrence Gould is helping to identify local farmers, near retirement age, who are willing to give opportunities to youngsters.

The first two meetings took place in January and February and involved 20 young people at each.

The aim is to establish a pool of enthusiastic, well-trained young farmers ready to take up opportunities provided by older farmers for tenancies, share farming, contracting or other joint ventures.

david.cousins@rbi.co.uk