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How first generation farmers can get a foot on the farming ladder

Getting a foot on the farming ladder can be hard as a first generation farmer.

 

Here, Sarah Todd speaks to Teleri Fielden, who won a scholarship to run an upland farm in Snowdonia, about her experiences.

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How first generation farmers can get a foot on the farming ladder #Careers

With sky-high land prices and the decline in traditional start-up tenancies, it is hard for first generation farmers to get a foot on the ladder.

 

A starting point is to mix with farmers, but farmers like to make sure the next generation can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

 

If you are a first-time farmer looking to get started, here are some things which could help.


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VOLUNTEERING

 

ALTHOUGH you may not get paid more than the occasional hearty meal, being able to say you have hands-on experience at a farm could prove priceless.

 

EDUCATION

 

SIGN up for a college course. Not only will you be learning, colleges are a hub of information about farming opportunities.

 

Many former students will telephone an old college lecturer and ask him or her to recommend a promising person from the current cohort. Many colleges have Facebook pages dedicated to work experience and employment opportunities.

 

FUNDS

 

LOOK out for industry-led schemes and grants.

 

For example, plenty have kickstarted their career in farming by spending a year with McDonald’s on its Progressive Young Farmer Training Programme, which gives agricultural students a 12-month placement learning about the supply chain, from farm to abattoir to restaurant.

 

Successful applicants are mentored by a farmer, as well as some of the UK’s leading food-supply companies.

 

More unusual efforts to get into the industry have included the internet sensation of crowdfunding. Jack Stilwell’s dream of raising £4,000 to cover the rent for eight hectares (20 hectares) of pasture and to buy 10 calves, along with food costs, created a lot of interest when it featured on BBC’s Countryfile.

SELF-EMPLOYMENT

 

CONTRACTING is a more traditional starting point and also an ideal way to make contacts and learn about upcoming opportunities.

 

Do not forget: in our fast-paced social media-savvy world, patience is an easily forgotten quality. Remain realistic – chances are your farming dream will not happen overnight.

 

Other people’s Instagram feeds and Twitter posts can be disheartening. Remember, these are edited highlights. Keep focused on building genuine real-life relationships.

 

Patience

 

Farming is all about playing the long game. Planting a crop, turning a bull into a field of heifers; it is all focused on the future. Patience is key.

 

If you have a day job outside of farming, keep hold of it for as long as you can. Successful first generation farmers are often the ones who have made their income elsewhere for as long as possible.

 

Finally, do not underestimate the importance of being well-read.

 

Keeping up to date with the latest agricultural news could help you start a conversation which gives you a start in the industry.

CASE STUDY TELERI FIELDEN

 

“SWALLOW your pride and ask for help,” is 28-year-old Teleri Fielden’s top tip for first generation farmers.

 

Her other pearls of wisdom include growing a thick skin, learning to laugh at yourself and picking yourself up and trying again when things go wrong.

 

Teleri won a National Trust and Wales Young Farmers Club scholarship to take on the running of a challenging 243-hectare (600-acre) upland farm in Snowdonia.

 

What was meant to be a one-year opportunity has been extended to three, something which Teleri is halfway through.

 

“My granddad used to farm, but it was sold when I was just seven years old,” says Teleri, who studied geography at university and had held down a number of jobs, from plumber’s assistant to chalet host.

 

“I was always keen on farming, but with land so expensive I had no idea how to get started,” she adds.

 

Before applying to take on Llyndy Isaf, Teleri had followed a path of volunteering and work experience to get practical agricultural experience.

 

She says one of the things she still struggles with is the feeling that ‘I’m always going to be behind’ and not catch up with the knowledge of those who have been brought up on farms.

 

“I do not have a particularly thick skin, but I am quite determined,” says Teleri, who says she is often having to pick herself back up and try again after something on the farm goes wrong.

 

Help

 

Rather than being left to sink or swim on her own, the scheme is run as a kind of apprenticeship, with help available from an ecologist and the shepherds on the neighbouring National Trust farm.

 

As well as the 100-head flock of sheep, the farm runs a small herd of Welsh Black cattle.

 

“My top tips to other first generation farmers are to work hard and to be respectful of the older generations,” says Teleri.

 

“They have a lot of experience to share.”

 

The National Trust is the UK’s biggest farmer and it is always looking for staff to manage its farms. It advertises new farms to let on its website.

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