As we enter the third decade of this century it is perhaps easier to dwell on what has gone on this year rather than look forward.
However, I truly believe that the 2020’s will be looked back upon as a defining decade and farming is set to change rapidly.
This year we have seen the average age of farmers rise from 57 to 59.
It had been 57 for as long as I can remember but I sense a sea change.
We know at the Addington Fund from our day to work in rural housing and disaster relief, that the number of farmers who wish to retire but can’t afford to because they have no exit strategy in place is rising.
Furthermore, the opportunity to draw down multiple BPS payments in one hit as mooted in 2022 might be a retirement enabler.
At Addington we have bought a further seven retirement homes this year to rent out at subsidised rents to farmers have taken the plunge or quite simply had to retire. So perhaps the transition has already started?
If so, we could be entering an area of massive opportunity and youngsters could for the first time in recent years be given the opportunity to farm in their own name.
Whenever I speak at a YFC meeting I always ask if any are scared at the prospect of farming without subsidies?
Without exception non bat an eyelid. I follow this up with the logical question, would it worry you if your neighbour had access to payments and you did not?
Again, the response is always equally emphatic that they could and would farm given such an opportunity.
I always put this down to the naivety of youth as it is clear to me that start up grants will be needed when holdings become vacant.
Then again, I think of my own experiences over the last 40 where I have been fortunate to visit many of the best (and the worst) farms in the UK.
When I make a list of the top 10 farms I have visited, as I do from time to time seven are generally first generation or equivalent in that they have had responsibility thrust upon at a very early age.
Following this logic through it should mean if younger farmers are given the opportunity at an early age to farm in their own right it will be a good thing for the UK in terms of food production, efficiency and profitability.
The Addington Fund is fortunate enough to be the likely donor of some legacy farms and we will pledge to let those out to first generation farmers, agriculturally trained but quite likely to be from outside the industry.
So perhaps 2020 will signal the decade of opportunity for young aspiring farmers. I do hope so.