FW 75: ‘We need to encourage new farmers’

As I am coming to the end of my NFYFC chairmanship I would like to congratulate Farmers Weekly on behalf of the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs for 75 years of loyal and outstanding commitment to the British farming industry.

But as the magazine celebrates the past three-quarters of a century, I’d like to look ahead and ask what the future holds for entrants to the industry. Are the opportunities really out there?

I feel they are, but British agriculture, the public and the government must think about some key issues that worry me.

Along with many other benefits, our county council farm holdings provide an entry into farming, a vital opportunity for farmers that will be jeopardised if we don’t work towards sustaining them.

As government and county council asset-stripping are on the agenda to cover spiralling debt, the county council farm estates are an obvious target. These holdings are vital for young people to get a start on the farming ladder, offering lower risks and opportunities to work with a limited cash investment.

But council holdings don’t need to be the only opportunities of becoming your own farming boss. Young people should take advantage of all that the Fresh Start initiative offers by meeting like-minded people, improving their business skills or finding out how to get more training.

It will help them to look towards becoming a partner in an established farming business.

Another issue is something the older generation of farmers (and probably the current generation, too) needs to be looking at advice on succession planning.

Have a succession plan as part of your farm business plan. It could offer a much-needed opportunity for future farmers, whether it’s running the business, being a partner or renting land. Creating a future for a new entrant or younger farmer could also offer a welcome opportunity and a happy retirement.

There’s still a bright future for young people in farming but will they all be farming in Britain?

This is my biggest worry because the UK is not the only country in the world that needs young blood to pick up the agricultural torch. Young people will take the opportunities in the nations offering the biggest incentives.

We have seen many farming organisations and Farmers Weekly promoting young people and the opportunities for them in British agriculture. And there’s no doubt that there is still work to be done to persuade a wider audience of the opportunities of working in the sector.

But one thing that can be safely said is that any young person wanting to farm has literally got the world (not to mention the earth) at his or her feet.

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