8 December 2000

Never a better time to make farming start

The run-up to Christmas

is a busy time for young

people. Smithfield Show

provides a welcome

diversion from the routine

of work or college for

many. And in Wales,

Eisteddfod is a must for

many Young Farmers

Clubs. Tim Relf catches

up on whats been

happening of interest to

farmings new generation

NOW could be the best chance in a generation to break into farming, so visitors to last weeks Smithfield Show heard.

"There are vast opportunities for highly-skilled, qualified people," so David Hall of Myerscough College told a Farmer Forum meeting.

Fewer than 350 people qualified with a National Diploma in Agriculture in 1999 – and they have to support an industry with a hired workforce of 66,000, he said. The same year saw fewer than 1200 students get an Animal Care qualification, compared with 120,000 in business studies.

Openings exist for youngsters with technical, business, computer, marketing and personnel skills, said Mr Hall. "Its no longer a place for people that are strong in the arm and weak in the head."

According to Rob Hindle of Farming Online, there is a "skills shortage" caused by the exit of farmers from the industry. And the ageing profile of those left behind brings opportunities. "If you filled a football stadium with farmers and looked down, it would be more grey than blond.

"The silver lining of this particular cloud is the significantly reduced entrance costs. Income may be at its lowest level in real terms since the 1970s – but rents are beginning to head south, and cows and quota have never been cheaper."

John Moveley, principal of Myerscough College, concluded: "There has never been such a time to get into the industry."