Haydn Evans is the Welsh representative who sits on the NFU Organic Forum. He farms with his wife and son in Pembrokeshire and they run a herd of some 100 milking cows consisting of traditional breeds, principally British Friesian, Ayrshire and Dairy Shorthorn. He also Chairman of the Soil Association Farmer and Grower board. He writes:
A question I frequently get asked by young people is just how they can enter into farming with such high land prices, machinery and other start-up costs. Traditional entry has generally been through the succession of the holding or through a business farm tenancy from either a private or public landlord. E.g county council holdings.
While succession to long established agricultural holdings has continued (albeit in reduced numbers as farms get larger), entry via public or private landlords has become far more challenging in recent times.
Some county councils have either decided to sell off their agricultural holdings under the guise of financial constraints or have amalgamated holdings which have reduced the numbers available.
There are a number of examples in my area of small dairy farms not being re let as a dairy holding due to the cost of compliance for existing and indeed potential environmental legislation. This has been used as a reason to sell the holding in many instances.
The Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995; whilst successful in terms of bringing land to the market was not very successful in affording tenants any security of tenure. The average business farm tenancy in Wales is now less than five years. What other ways are there to encourage new people to enter farming and land management going forward?
One such example frequently cited is shared farming whereby the wishes of the person looking to step back from the day to day running of the business is matched with the enthusiasm skills and demands of a new entrant. From the very outset a legal contract is established so that both parties are aware of their rights and responsibilities to each other. The difficulty has always been trying to match both parties and bring them together.
I’m delighted to say that in Wales under the farming connect programme there is a working example of just how this can be done.
Entitled VENTURE, it is a scheme designed to match farmers and landowners who are looking to step back from the industry with new entrants looking for a way into farming. It guides people on both sides through the keys steps required to find a potential partner. It is an integrated package of training, mentoring, specialist advice and business support that will equip participants with the skills knowledge and confidence needed to help them achieve their goals. Full details are available on the farming connect website.
It pleases me to say that there are already very successful examples of how this is working for farmers and growers entering the industry. It is a flagship scheme that has been carefully thought out by some very forward thinking people looking to support both parties get want they want out of the future.
The scheme embraces many of the challenges young entrants face starting out and this can include a mentoring programme for up to eighteen months. Being a great flagship for our farming industry here in Wales, I would encourage as many people as possible to engage with the programme.