A Canadian filmmaker has spent a year chronicling the lives of dozens of young farmers, to learn more about the difficulties facing the next generation of food producers.
Anne Cottringer, who now lives in Herefordshire, was compelled to explore the reality of farming life after stumbling across a statistic from the Royal Agricultural Society’s New Blood report that claimed the average age of farmers in the UK is 58.
“It made me wonder, if that’s the case, is there going to be anybody to work the land? Is there anybody in the next generation who is going to put food on our tables?” she said.
Ms Cottringer was put in touch with dozens of local young farmers aged between 16 and 30 through the Herefordshire YFC, and was surprised to discover it was a daily challenge to keep farming alive in the area.
The huge capital investment required to become a farmer, particularly the spiralling costs of land, emerged as one of the biggest obstacles to a career in food production. Farmers from medium-sized farms also voiced concerns about having to leave the family business and find alternative work while there is more than one generation working on the land.
Extracts from the film were screened at the 2010 Borderlines Film Festival – the largest rural film festival in the UK – and a discussion around the project attracted an audience of hundreds at the recent Hay Festival of Literature.
When it is finished, Ms Cottringer is hoping the film will generate discussion and debate about the future of farming outside agricultural circles.
“All the young farmers I met were passionate and articulate, but you never get to see them on screen and their voices aren’t heard,” she said. “This project is a new platform for them – a chance for people who don’t know about the hardships and joys of farming life to understand what it means to be young and a farmer.”
A fundraising campaign is currently under way to raise the £54,000 needed to complete the project. To find out more go to www.youngfarmersdocumentary.wordpress.com.