Former NFU president Sir Ben Gill is selling the bulk of Home Farm, his 107ha (265 acre) North Yorkshire arable unit.

Talking exclusively to Farmers Weekly, Sir Ben said the move was symptomatic of the state of farming today.

“I’ve got to the stage in my life where the family farm, in terms of lowland farming, is not as viable as it would have been 20 years ago.

When my father started farming Home Farm was a big farm.

“It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that with wheat at £65/t it’s not going to be profitable.

I did think of expanding, but in the past 20 years I’ve been away so much the opportunities were missed.”

None of his four sons wanted to farm either, added Sir Ben, but he stressed that he wasn’t disillusioned with farming.

“Yes, I am a bit sad, but I’m very positive about the future.

I don’t think it’s a case of ‘if’ wheat will go back over £100/t but ‘when’.

Global events will change the balance of the market and prices will increase.”

But Sir Ben’s could well be the last farming family to live and work at Home Farm.

Carter Jonas’s Toby Cockroft, who is handling the sale, said it was likely that local farmers would buy the land with a residential buyer taking over the attractive five-bedroom house and landscaped gardens.

However, the Gills’ involvement with the farm, which is being sold in four lots for £1.8m, is set to continue.

Sir Ben is not selling the farm’s traditional and modern buildings and, in common with many other farmers, has decided to diversify.

“When I took over the farm in 1978 one of my decisions was not to demolish the traditional buildings when we put up new ones.

But it’s been costing £4000 a year to maintain them so I needed to do something.

I’ve now got planning permission to convert them into a showpiece office development.

They will be very attractive and will include things like biomass heating systems.”

Sir Ben said he and his wife Carolyn had also purchased a house and some land in her home county of Herefordshire where they would continue farming on a smaller scale.

Details of exactly what this would involve hadn’t been finalised, but they might involve an opportunity for a young farmer, he said.

“The young farmers who come up and talk to me are enthusiastic and fed up of the older members of the industry who keep complaining.”

andrew.shirley@rbi.co.uk