Fresh Start, a pioneering project launched in Cornwall a year ago to ensure a sustainable future for farming, has proved such a success that it is now being trialled across the south west.

The scheme, led by the Cornwall Agricultural Council, was designed to help new entrants into farming and retiring farmers to plan their exit.

It was the model for DEFRA’s national Fresh Start framework.

It provides a matchmaking service for those entering or leaving the industry, professional and independent business support, training, and mentors offering advice and guidance. Financial support is expected to be available in the near future.

Since the launch, more than 100 farmers from Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have registered, and 26 applications have been processed.

Co-ordinator Charlotte Woodford said:

“We’ve been hugely encouraged by the level of interest, especially from new entrants because we know there is a high proportion of very able young people who want to get into farming.”

Ben Bennett managed to secure a farm tenancy at Stoke Climsland, Callington, Cornwall, with the help of Fresh Start last year.

He also set up in partnership with his parents, who farm nearby and intend to retire shortly, and has expanded the enterprise to from 500 breeding ewes to 800 with 150 replacements.

“Being a new entrant to farming and expanding an existing business is a tough challenge at the best of times, and CAP reform makes it all the more challenging,” he said.

“The support I have received has been absolutely superb and to have someone at the end of a telephone to offer impartial advice has been invaluable.”

The project has now been rolled out across the region, and is managed by Business Link through the South West Rural Enterprise Gateway project.

olivia.cooper@rbi.co.uk