Fifteen hundred vulnerable UK small farms will get free one-to-one support and guidance under a scheme launched today by the Prince’s Countryside Fund (PCF).
The £1.5m five-year Farm Resilience Programme is designed to put a brake on the steep decline in the number of small family farms over the past decade, highlighted in a report produced by Exeter University last month.
Each year, 300 farmers will be invited to a series of four local workshops, designed to give them the skills they need to tackle the challenges faced by today’s family farm businesses.
The workshops will run between November and next spring, in locations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Business health check
The first, a “business health check” session, will help each farmer assess the strengths and weaknesses of their farm business, based on data supplied by each farmer using a “Getting to know your business” benchmarking tool.
My Farm Resilience Programme is designed to respond to those threats by helping up to 300 hard-to-reach, vulnerable farm businesses. It is the most far-reaching programme ever offered by my Countryside Fund Prince of Wales
The second workshop will focus on improving farmers’ financial management, while the final two will help them put together a plan to improve the fortunes of their farm.
After they have completed the workshops farmers will be encouraged to continue meeting with other participants in their area, to share experiences and support each other as they implement their plans.
The PCF has formed a steering group for the programme that includes the heads of agriculture at several major banks, plus the AHDB, the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) and the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA), chaired by Allan Wilkinson, head of agriculture at HSBC.
Speaking at the launch of the programme, the Prince of Wales said: “The small farms which have been such an integral part of Britain’s landscape for thousands of years are under threat.
“My Farm Resilience Programme is designed to respond to those threats by helping up to 300 hard-to-reach, vulnerable farm businesses. It is the most far-reaching programme ever offered by my Countryside Fund.”
Claire Saunders, director of the Fund, said: “There has never been a more important time for practical action to help farm businesses.
“On top of the everyday problems for farmers, new and more life-changing decisions are now required. Small farms add vibrancy and strength to rural communities and ensure that we have a diverse farming sector.”
The programme will be open to vulnerable family farm businesses – expected to be small to medium farms based on the labour of up to two people. Recruitment will start in September.