Conference hails new idea to get started in farming

2:14pm Friday 7th December 2012

By Mike Bridgen

A DRAGON’S Den-style solution could help new entrants and younger people get into farming.

The idea was put forward at last week’s “The Farming Ladder – Getting On and Going Up”

conference at the Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate.

It discussed ways of helping younger people into the industry while helping older farmers to retire.

The record price of farm land and problems of getting help from banks prompted one delegate to put forward the “Dragons Den” solution.

He said older farmers and those looking to retire may have the funds to provide the necessary equity to help a younger person get started.

The idea received an enthusiastic response from delegates with panellist Tom Curtis, coauthor of The Land Partnerships Handbook, being particularly keen.

“I have not heard of something specifically like this but it is a cracking idea,” he said, and urged people to be imaginative and all parties to be flexible.

In Oxford someone who wanted to start growing produce to sell and deliver held a local shares issue with the minimum investment being £100 and the maximum £20,000.

Mr Curtis said: “It was extremely successful, partly because local people were interested in something tangible to put their money in to. It needed £40,000 and they actually stopped it at £80,000. The largest investment was £5,000.”

He previously managed an Oxfordshire estate and was approached by a couple who had no land but who wanted to set up a sheep farm.

He saw how sheep could play a role on the estate and after detailed discussions and getting to know each other a successful business was established.

Stephen Wyrill, national vicechairman of the Tenant Farmers Association and tenant dairy farmer near Catterick, told another story of someone who wanted to farm but had no land and could not get help from the bank.

He worked for contractors and farmers to get some money together and eventually bought a livestock trailer.

He then made a living by contacting abattoirs to get that day’s prices before going to the mart to buy stock to deliver – today he has a farm.

Dorothy Fairburn, north regional director for the Country Land and Business Association, said the CLA had been a leader in share farming. She felt new entrants could be helped if elderly farmers were able to retire with dignity.

Barney Kay, NFU North East regional director, believed a “dating service” could pair up farmers wanting to retire with new entrants or other farmer’s sons and daughters.


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