One tough year later

Mark and Bridget Thomas- East Nancemeer Farm, St Newlyn East

A difficult first year hasn’t put first generation farmers Mark and Bridget Thomas off their ambition of running their own dairy farm.

Last year’s extremely dry summer reduced the quality of grazing, in turn affecting milk yields, and knocking the couple’s carefully-prepared budgets for six.

Despite the tough conditions, however, the satisfaction of being his own boss has made it an enjoyable year for Mark – who had previously worked on a number of other dairy holdings.

“There’s no substitute for making your own decisions,” he explains. “It’s the realisation that – rightly or wrongly – whatever you decide really does matter.”

Mark and Bridget had always hoped to secure a tenancy of their own, but had struggled to get beyond the shortlist stage. They therefore applied to Fresh Start, for help to look at the viability of their business proposal, and prepare a fully-costed tender application.

It made the difference. The couple were awarded a County Council tenancy, where they now farm a herd of Guernsey cows.

The Channel Island breed has proven a wise investment, allowing the farm to benefit from quality bonuses from their buyer Dairy Crest. Meanwhile, a £3500 contribution from Dairy Collect has helped to construct a level hard standing, enabling articulated tankers to turn safely.

Mark is grateful for the Cornwall Enterprise service. “Dairy Collect have been very good – and the new milk collection arrangements will make things an awful lot easier this winter.”

He also praises the ongoing advice and support from Fresh Start. “It’s great! When you’re struggling with a problem, you can always get advice.”

The couple insist they have no regrets about committing their future livelihood to the dairy industry.

“We’ve come in at just the right time,” says Mark. “Besides, it’s not about making lots of money. You only live once, so you might as well do what you really want to do.”

FRESH START-CORNWALL

While working closely with the national Fresh Start initiative, Fresh Start in Cornwall is a project unique in the UK, pioneered by the Cornwall Agricultural Council and hosted at Cornwall Enterprise.

It aims to improve the long-term vitality of Cornwall’s farming industry by assisting new entrants, and helping those already working in farming to explore new ways of doing things by offering advice and, in some circumstances, financial support to new projects.

For more information contact: charlotte.woodford@cornwallenterprise.co.uk

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