25 February 2000

Schoolboy farmer in limelight

A 14-year-old schoolboy has hit the headlines after reportedly buying a farm with his pocket money. Ben Wonnacott of Milford Haven, West Wales, claims to have paid £100 for 5 acres (2ha) of land and barn for his expanding livestock business of two calves, seven sheep, and 16 chickens.

The story was reported in the Daily Mail which named Ben as the countrys youngest farmer. He spends £27 a week running his smallholding which is breaking even.

Livestock is reared and sold at the local market to increase his revenue but Ben would not sell to supermarkets. He told FARMERS WEEKLY: "They are not paying enough for the animals."

Ben knows more about farming than most youngsters. One in four British children think oranges and olives are home-grown and cotton comes from sheep, claims a new survey. It found that farmers are seen as kind and affectionate but most children identified them as grandfather figures. Only 10% said they fancied actually being a farmer.

Across Europe

The poll of 2400 nine and 10-year-olds across Europe, was complied for the European Council of Young Farmers.

But any suggestion that the next generation is unwilling to enter agriculture was rejected by Reg Haydon, chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA).

"I do not believe that there arent people who do want to get in," he told farmers weekly.

The comments, made at the TFA annual general meeting in London, came after Mr Haydon pledged to continue lobbying the government for an early retirement scheme for older producers. Tenant farmers are often forced to carry on farming because they have few assets, leaving many with no money on which to retire, he said.

The government believes that a retirement scheme would be too expensive and heavily over-subscribed.

But Mr Haydon said such a scenario could be avoided. He added: "We believe that a package should be means tested against the capital available to a farmer to ensure that there is not a dead-weight element in the uptake." &#42