A young farmer has highlighted her disappointment in the lack of opportunities for young people to get their foot on the farming ladder after being forced to sell her dairy herd.
Florence Mannerings, 22, had to give up on her dream of establishing a commercial dairy herd when her family’s two 10-year council tenancies in Winchester, Hampshire, came to an end.
Although the family was given more than five years notice to prepare to leave the farm, Ms Mannerings said the lack of available and ongoing opportunity to those wanting to kick-start a career in agriculture was holding back the industry.
“There was a discussion going on that maybe I would have tried to take over and the farm would be in my name, but the council never opened up the option,” she said.
“The council gave us, as a family, the leg up to farm we needed with a lovely home and farm for 20 years which we would not have had without them.
“That is why it is so vital councils keep up their tenancies. It is so hard to go from having your own cows to just being a worker.”
Ms Mannerings said her parents were still in negotiation with the council, but were now living at a smaller farm in Dover, Kent, selling milking heifers and farming a suckler herd of rare breed cattle.
Although she managed to keep 15 of her own 40-strong Shorthorn dairy herd, she said the move was ‘really disappointing’.
“It was the disappointment of having to sell up at the wrong point in our lives,” she added. “Once those animals are gone it is extremely hard to get your foot in the door again.”
Ms Mannerings’ story follows a change in Government rules which gave councils more freedom when spending the proceeds of any county farm sales, making it more attractive for them to ditch their estates.
Chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) George Dunn said local authorities should be building progression into estate planning to provide opportunities for progressing young farmers, rather than new entrants, to help provide market fluidity.
“The legislation underpinning county farms is all about providing opportunities for individuals to be farmers in their own account,” he added.
“Rather than creating a farming ladder, we too often see something more akin to a farming conveyor belt where opportunities are short-lived, without progression.”