The future is uncertain but here, four young farmers tell us their hopes and plans for their own path in farming.
There are many factors for young farmers to consider, and many of them confusing.
You could study, find a job or end up running the family farm, but with any decision you make there will wider obstacles to think about.
Here, three farmers who are up and coming in the industry tell us their hopes for the future.
What is their plan? Do they feel positive about their career? Should the Government be doing more for young farmers?
They are the ones who will have to bring innovative and fresh ideas to the agricultural table, so how exactly do they feel about the road that lies ahead of them?
Find out below.
We are continually told by industry experts and politicians alike that our country will not only survive, but prosper post-Brexit and that there’s nothing to really worry about. Theresa May is on the job and securing a fine deal for us all. It’s a dream I’d really like to believe but I, like many others, will be treading very carefully as I begin to take my first real steps into the agricultural industry alone.
One of my biggest concerns today is the availability of skilled staff - foreign or British. I personally do not operate a huge enterprise, with only 120 milking cows and no immediate plans for expansion however me and my uncle do have a full-time member of staff from Poland. He has been with us for twelve years now and has become a good dairyman, tractor-man, all round handyman and, of course, a dear friend to the family. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is he will not be with us forever regardless of the looming Brexit deal or not. My uncle is also currently planning for retirement in 2020 so I’m facing a quick shortage of staff and increased work load - two things that don’t exactly allow me to express myself and do all the things on the farm I feel necessary.
I will move forward by looking at all the available and not to forget affordable, options open to me as a young farmer. As a dairy farmer, I feel we are quite unique with the level of research and development done by manufacturers, on how their equipment or software can possibly make our cows more comfortable, happier and healthier. This makes our lives a bit easier. As a small family farm, I am aware of the level of automation surrounding the dairy world. This seems to be the best way I can manage the herd and business by myself with seasonal help when required. The more work that can be automatically carried out on farm the better in my opinion. Under the supervision of myself, working hand in hand with robots can provide me with the reliable consistent levels I need to develop the herd under my own skill set and time schedule. It will help to keep the need for skilled labour low, subsequent costs at a minimum and efficiency levels high. I feel this will stand me in good stead for what turbulent times lie ahead.
It has taken me a little while to really think about what I would like in my farming future. I came up with a lot of jokes and light-hearted answers, as well as the usual ‘happy, healthy and prosperous’. But serious hat on, one of my hopes for my farming future is for a Government that listens to its farmers by delivering support and the promises made to us.
I don’t mean financially, but support in terms of eradicating TB, support against activists and help us to showcase the positives of British agriculture.
On a totally personal level, I’m hoping to start my own agri-business in the next 6-12 months. Behind the scenes, I’ve been putting a lot of work into the next big step in my life. It has meant I’ve had to look at fulfilling extra courses and going back into education again, as well as think about finances and applying for grant schemes. It feels like a whirlwind and even slightly over-whelming, but I’m really determined to make it work. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Where is farming heading? Well, I think farming is like the weather: Everyone loves to talk about it. It is predicatively unpredictable, more so at the moment more than ever. On the topic of Brexit, I wouldn’t like to say when or if bad weather may arrive, so I will talk about things we can predict and being forever the optimist, I believe great things are coming.
We are seeing an increased reliance on data in farming and like in other industries, I think this will become a huge factor in the day to day running of every farm.
In my line of work, servicing and repairing bulk milk tanks, data loggers are becoming standard on most modern milk tanks, meaning farmers receive warning messages when processes become irregular.
This helps engineers like myself resolve issues before they even become a problem. I personally think farmers will have a vast bank of data available in the future which can be analysed and readily available to use in every part of their business, on their mobile phones.
In order for this to become viable, data collection cannot use up too much time. We could see more automation though. For example, the use of drones in the USA to take soil samples, grass samples and monitoring livestock out at pasture act as the eyes and ears of the herdsman.
It could help to solve three problems in one hit: Lack of staff, inform farm engineers of mishaps sooner and ultimately make the farm more efficient.
More and more, we are seeing news and political debates being fought over on social media platforms.
As an industry, agriculture is improving on this medium but we need to ensure we get the right messages heard in the right areas.
Farmers take pride in producing food, but if consumers have little regard for where theirs comes from, even the most efficient farm in the world could still go out of business.
I believe Young Farmers can beat the drum for quality British produce and farming the loudest and getting our generation in to this mindset will fuel the fire in future generations. Committing to getting food production in to the school curriculum should also be a major mission for NFU's Minette Batters and Michael Gove.
I finish with my new favourite sound bite: Calm waters never made a great sailor. It firmly captures our struggles over the past few years and potentially in the next five, should feed our future long term success.
I think the future of farming is unpredictable if I’m honest, as technology, practices and the people of farming are always changing.
New things are being done, and different farms do similar things in their own way. There are also new people going into agriculture - such as myself - with no farming background, and we are learning new things and different set ups and taking that along with us in our careers.
I’m hoping to carry on doing bits of lambing and odd jobs earning some money in my home town (the Wirral) so I can save up for a car and pass my test. Once I’ve got a car, I can hopefully move up to Cumbria and start doing contract work for sheep farmers up there - and get myself a good working dog of course.
I think the support for farmers over the past few years has improved. By using things like social media, they are showing the public how hard they work all the time and the unfortunate things they have to go through.
We are all going on a bumpy journey so we will just have to see where it takes us I guess.