A mentoring service will launch early next year to provide a range of help and advice for those attending, or who have previously attended, the Fresh Start Academies.
The mentors recruited to date come from a variety of backgrounds, including farmers, bankers, consultants, rural surveyors and businesses beyond the agriculture sphere.
Alison says: “Training in its many different formats is exceptionally useful, but there are times, especially when you are looking to start or develop a business, when you need one-to-one support and this is best achieved by having a business mentor.
“Mentors provide a valuable sounding board for ideas and challenges and help look at any aspects of your business and career you may wish them to.
“They provide a neutral, confidential and unbiased environment which enables the ‘mentee’ to explore and develop their business/career over a period of time.”
The scheme will start in early January 2015 and will be available to any of the current and past academy members.
Alison says: “There will be a registration process to help identify the type of mentor being sought. We will then look to match mentees with a suitable mentor in that area.”
Mentoring sessions will be available for 12 months (one per month) and will be free of charge.
Land Partnership Workshops
From next year, Land Partnership Workshops will be offered across the industry and to new entrants wishing to get into farming. It will bring together entrepreneurs, landowners, agents, tenants and business owners to develop business ideas and land agreements.
Alison says: “This will be achieved by understanding the concepts and options available to all parties, including joint ventures and meeting with those who have already embraced a different approach, but by using established methods and listening to their experiences.”
Dates and venues for 2015 will be announced shortly.
Looking to establish her own sheep enterprise, the Harper Adams graduate decided to join a Fresh Start academy to develop her business skills - particularly in terms of understanding planning and how to apply for tenancies.
The programme comprised of eight sessions over a three-month period and was a mixture of on-farm days and evening meetings.
Charlotte, who works for RASE as a livestock specialist, says: “We had experts present at all meetings offering advice and all the farmers were brilliant in sharing intricate details of their businesses, which I believe is quite rare.”
Charlotte’s group did not just welcome farmers, but also a couple who ran a pub but wanted to pursue a farming career, a man who had inherited a farm but had no practical experience and a couple who were on the periphery of the industry wishing to gain a firmer foothold.
Charlotte believes the programme helped develop her business skills, which she has utilised since completing the course.
“Before the course I would have struggled to know what to put, and how to lay out a business plan,” she says. “Since leaving I have put together two business plans for myself for different opportunities and I made use of the network of experts on hand to ask pretty much any question. It is not often questions are answered as truthfully as this.”
Growing up on a 138-hectare (340-acre) National Trust livestock farm in Edale, he has worked part-time for the family business and worked freelance elsewhere as a farm contractor.
In 2010, James bought seven pedigree North Cheviot ewes and by 2013 had increased numbers to 21 ewes and six ewe lambs, which prompted the start of branching out on his own under the Greenhills prefix.
Having received leaflets from several sources on the Fresh Start initiative, James decided to apply.
It was the first time he had undertaken any training, apart from technical-related skills which were needed on the farm.
The programme consisted of 10 sessions over a three-month period and involved a mix of professional speakers, business case studies, farm visits and a tenancy exercise.
James says: “All 20 places were filled. Yes there were other farmers, but there were others there who were ultimately looking at getting into the industry. There was a mix of ages, which brought a new dynamic to the group.”
Since leaving the programme, James has been inspired to grow his business. “I have realised that running a successful business is 10 per cent good luck and 90 per cent hard work.
“I have increased my flock to 98 ewes, have taken on four additional blocks of rented land, which I have sourced myself, and have a website in development to promote our box lamb scheme.
“I have already nearly sold all of this year’s lambs via this route and have not borrowed any extra capital.
“I have been clever with the finances and more on the ball.”