A new initiative has launched to bring landowners together with individuals looking for land to secure their future in farming. Danusia Osiowy looks at The Fresh Start Land Partnerships Service and why the organisation is urging the industry to support its growing potential.
Access to land to build new farm businesses is one of the biggest barriers new entrants and young farmers are facing. But the launch of The Fresh Start Land Partnerships Service might be able to begin reversing the trend.
The initiative is part of a wider campaign to facilitate and support more people into farming businesses, improve skills and training and breakdown the hindrances to secure decent land.
The land-matching service for England aims to match land and business owners with individuals looking for an opportunity to get on the farming ladder or those wishing to develop an enterprise further. Landowners are being urged to register their interest and help offer new opportunities across the industry.
Alison Rickett, managing director of the Fresh Start Land Enterprise Centre, says: “Even though many think getting started in their own businesses may be difficult or impossible there are some real opportunities out there for them.
“Likewise, landowners do have choices to help diversify their businesses and those looking to retire can benefit from new succession solutions. We need to think differently and encourage new farming businesses.
“The more people who sign up for the service – entrepreneurs and land owners – the better chance we have of matching people.”
The service offers a range of business models, including farm business tenancies, share farming and contracting arrangements, but with its core work aims to get people working together in a wide range of joint ventures.
"The dream is a tenancy, but I want the opportunity to run a farm business day-to-day"
Keith Darling was brought up in a farming environment and has worked with sheep all his life. Working as a full-time shepherd in Salisbury, Wiltshire, he was responsible for the management of 1, 500 ewes with lambs at foot on an organic system.
He also managed the associated paperwork and reporting to the Rural Payments Agency. Keith is now in the process of change after confirmation he is to be made redundant at the end of October.
“I want to take this as a point to move onto the next stage of my career and find a joint venture type of agreement,” he says. Keith has as small flock of 18 Suffolks and lambs, three pedigree Beltex and lambs and 450 commercial ewes.
“I am looking for suitable land, buildings and preferably with accommodation as my current house comes with my job,” Keith adds.
I am open-minded about the type of agreement I am looking for, but I want to use this as the next step of my career.”
In exchange for land, Keith can offer years of experience and knowledge as a shepherd, record keeping and shearing skills.
By October he is looking to have additional machinery such as quad bike/trailer and handling system and is saving to potentially invest capital into the venture. “I am at an age now that I want to be successful in my own right,” he adds.
“The dream is to have a tenancy but I want the opportunity to run a farm business day-to-day. I have lots of ideas I would like to put into practice and the Land Partnerships approach and services seems an ideal route to try and make this happen.
“Farming is in my blood and now it’s time to take the next step. Doing this in some type of joint venture is the sensible way to move on.”
A bespoke database helps individuals to find matches, which are then followed up with introductions and meetings as required.
“We have known from our work over the last 11 years such a service has been needed, but it has taken a great deal of work and discussions with other partners over several years to actually get this up and running and to find funding to support it,” says Alison.
“It has come at an extremely opportune time. With Brexit on the horizon this service could really make a difference in bringing in alternative ways of land management and creating a vibrant and diverse farming industry going forwards”.
The service is being supported by the Prince’s Countryside Trust, The Frank Parkinson Agricultural Trust, CLA, CAAV, the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, RICS, Exeter University, Delta Innovation and farmers.
Claire Saunders, director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, says: “Key to the service’s success is collaboration and one way to do this is encouraging businesses to think about assets they have available and looking at the most effective way to manage them.
“From our work through The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme we know there is an appetite both from those looking at ways to make better use of the assets on their farm, as well as those keen to increase the land they have available.
It provides a way to build a more resilient farm business for both parties and we are encouraging more businesses to think flexibly and creatively at the range of options available.”
The Fresh Start concept has constantly evolved since launching its business academies in 2006 and now operates as a Land Enterprise Centre.
This year, nine academies will run over the autumn and winter and individuals can also register for mentoring advice.
“Since we became a community interest company back in 2014, we now have a complete suite of programmes to help with business and land management innovation,” explains Alison.
“We are now building on this and will a have greater outreach with our programmes to help the farming community as we roll out the next phase of our work.
“Having established our regional teams across England and Wales, we can assist and get more involved with delivering our programmes and will develop business innovation hubs on a region by region basis.”
Q: How much does it cost to join?
Q: Is the service confidential?
Q: Is there any other support provided?
Q: What happens if a match is found?
Q: What doesn’t the service offer?
To register your interest in this please contact Fresh Start Land Enterprise Centre on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07771 911905 quoting Ref do-dkrp-pc
Please get in touch and we will be happy to talk through our registration process with you.
To register your interest in this please contact Fresh Start Land Enterprise Centre on email@example.com or call 07771 911905 quoting Ref 3b-sfdv-ew