Top tips for new entrants: getting a foothold on the farming ladder
Young farmers getting a foothold on the ladder is by no means a new issue.
Unfortunately though, it does become more and more challenging as our industry evolves and develops. However, this should certainly not put potential new entrants off. With the average age of farmers now standing at 53.3, there can be no doubt UK agriculture requires young, vibrant, entrepreneurial and hard - working people to establish their own businesses.
Here are some tips on how to get started:
- Work hard, be keen, and be eager to learn. It is important you are an experienced expert in your chosen field, plus, once you get your own business, time off will be limited and you need to show you are committed and happy to make sacrifices as such.
- Save hard and make considered investments. When any opportunity arises it is important you have as much as possible to take to it. This might be in the form of cash, livestock or property you could be able to borrow against. For example, a budding dairy farmer might look to establish a herd of heifers which could be milked, hired out within another herd, or sold.
- Network – speak to people from across the industry. Attend industry events, speak to land agents, consultants, farmers you know might be looking to retire, county councils. Anybody you think might be able to offer you an opportunity. People are usually happy to talk to you and take your details. It might seem like you are flogging a dead horse sometimes but you never know what it might lead to further down the line.
- Look hard, never let up. Constantly read the farming press, the web and social media. If you want to do this it is important you are aware of any tenancies/contract farms/share farms/opportunities which are available in the market place. Even if they seem out of reach do not be put off by scale and pub talk. Ring up, get the details and lodge your interest, again, you never know what it might lead to.
- Think outside the box. The traditional path into farming is of course through the tenanted sector, perhaps via county councils through to the private sector and beyond. However, times are changing. Tenancies generally require large lumps of capital in the first instance. Options such as share farming/milking are beginning to become more prevalent and can provide a less capital intensive way of getting your foot on the farming ladder. Some employers may even give you the option of having a share of the profit to incentivise you and also to help you to build your own assets.
- Do not be too hasty. If you decide to go for a business opportunity make sure you plan very carefully. Draw up a business plan, know exactly what it is going to be worth for you. Do not rush into the wrong agreement. If you can not make it stack up don’t worry, walk away and be ready to use your experience for the next opportunity.
Philip Jenkinson is keen to progress into dairy farming and has highlighted his own ideas in this article. He is chairman of Cheshire Young Farmers and is working in consultancy to gain experience and financial reward.