Land-owning farmers are ignoring obvious opportunities to draw new blood into agriculture while securing their own businesses, according to DairyCo chairman Tim Bennett.
Mr Bennett, who has a share-farming agreement in place on his Carmarthenshire farm, said many farmers who complained about the lack of young people coming into agriculture were often the ones in a position to help.
He entered a share-farming agreement with a young farmer because none of his own children wanted to farm. He urged others to consider similar options.
“If farmers own land and want to step back from active farming they have got to be much more imaginative about what they do with that land,” he told the DairyCo Welsh Conference at Aberystwyth on 13 March.
“A lot of farmers who quit the sector rent out land but end up with a patchwork of rented parcels rather than choosing a business model that offers a young person an opportunity to farm.”
One man who was given that chance was 25-year-old Matthew Jackson. He grew up in Manchester and his only experience of the countryside was an annual camping holiday in Wales.
He now owns 427 milking cows and followers thanks to a share-farming agreement he secured on a north Wales dairy farm.
“There is a false perception that you need to have a lot of money to get into dairying but there is a doorway into the industry for those without large sums of money behind them,” Mr Jackson told the conference.
He increased his wealth through buying and selling heifer calves and eventually persuaded a bank to loan him money to buy more stock. “I don’t think I have done anything that someone else couldn’t have done. I don’t think you need a huge amount of finance to get started, from a wage and renting a small piece of land you can achieve a lot if you work hard from the start. It’s about having goals, setting targets and putting a strategic plan in place.”
Young entrants will soon be able to browse an internet-based “match-making” service that will bring together farmers and graduates of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers’ Fresh Start academy.
The academy is designed to help new entrants to dairy farming and the website is an extension to that, says RABDF vice-chairman Derrick Davies.
“Farmers will be able to look at the people who have taken part in the academy to see how they are progressing and the new entrants will be able to see which farmers might have opportunities for them,” he said.