Six months into a share farming agreement, and 27-year-old Tom Noblet is proving how collaboration between farmers can be beneficial to all involved.
He believes more dairy farmers should consider setting up a share farming agreement as a way of providing an opportunity for new entrants to “get a foot on the ladder” and start farming.
Together with his wife Clare and two young children, Mr Noblet is now working with Max and Jenny Burrows, who run the 80-cow Burwhin Holstein herd at Whin Yeats Farm, Newbiggin, south Cumbria.
Although the arrangement they are currently working with is not rigid, its development is ongoing, with the aim for Mr and Mrs Noblet to be running the herd in a share farming agreement in four years’ time.
Share farming – some considerations
“We knew it would be difficult to start farming on our own, so we had decided to rent buildings and rear some beef cattle. But then we heard a farmer near Kirkby Lonsdale might be considering a share farming arrangement.
“A while later an advertisement appeared for a full-time farmworker on the same farm – a job with the possibly of a share farming agreement in the future. I applied and was successful,” says Mr Noblet.
The Noblet family are now living in a cottage at Whin Yeats Farm and as well as working with the Burrows’ 80 pedigree Holsteins and 200 Rough Fell ewe flock, Tom is actively involved in running the business and in all the decision-making.
“Max and Jenny Burrows aren’t sure how this is all going to work for us all and neither are we, but all of us are committed to the farm and to making this arrangement work. Mr Burrows wants to retire in four years’ time, but doesn’t want to disperse the herd or sell the farm. Share farming gives me a great opportunity to farm and allows the Burrows to stay close to the farm and still be involved in the business.
“There are signed agreements between us, but nothing very formal, just enough to safeguard both families,” says Mr Noblet, who is reinvesting most of his wages in youngstock in preparation for the future.
“This has given me the best possible opportunity I could have hoped for and everything I’m doing now on the farm will benefit us as a young family in the future, as well as benefitting the Burrows family.
“These sorts of opportunities don’t come along often enough for young people like us. It’s a great feeling to wake up in the morning and know that you are really on the way to achieving what you want to do – but there needs to be more farmers offering this sort of chance.”
While he acknowledges the way his share farming partnership develops over the next few years is still unclear – “we’re both learning as we go” – he says he’s keen to share his experiences with others if it will help them achieve a similar opportunity.
North Yorkshire landowner John Henderson has been a driving force in trying to encourage more farmers and landowners to venture into share farming arrangements and has set up two such agreements on his estate near Skipton.
“It’s a very simple arrangement to set up. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but the arrangement between the two parties needs to be clear,” he says.
“There’s no need to be absolutely specific about every detail, but there has to be commitment and awareness on both sides.
“The essentials of the sharing and the way it will work must be agreed, but having done that, it can be stuck in a drawer so you can get on with the farming.”
Mr Henderson says it’s important that both sides know what they want out of it and to have agreed the share. “But this isn’t a rental agreement, it’s about sharing the running of the farm,” he says.
“Provision must also be made should something untoward happen to either party. But taken overall, a share farming arrangement is very informal. It can be set up for say five years to start with, but it definitely doesn’t need to be drawn up by lawyers,” adds Mr Henderson.