How do you secure a farm tenancy? What can you do to improve your chances of success and what preparation can you do to help stand out from the crowd. Danusia Osiowy speaks to the Tenant Farmers Association advisors and land agent Carver Knowles for advice.
Where do I start with a tender for a farm tenancy?
Tendering for a farm can be life changing. You may only do it once or twice in your farming career, so it is important you know what you can prepare for before and during the application process.
Landlords want to get to know you and establish if you balance the books, run a successful farm business and, ultimately, can afford the rent. The tender is your one chance to prove you have this ability.
Land agent Carver Knowles has put together a quick 15 minute business plan, outlining the key issues potential applicants need to think about to give an application the best chance of being considered.
Having outlined these points, you have a skeletal business plan including all aspects of your tender application which the landowner and letting agent will want to see.
Now all you need to do is prepare the application.
Before you take on your first tenancy the main way to prove to a landlord you are dedicated to the industry is to provide evidence of training, qualifications and experience
If you do not have a past landlord who the prospective landlord can take references from, then this will be the area the new landlord will focus on. The more training and qualifications you can achieve which are relevant to managing a farm business, the better
If you have not had a great deal of hands-on experience, volunteer to help a local farmer or get a job in agriculture, otherwise it is highly unlikely you will be considered
When looking for opportunities, don’t limit yourself to one area. Good places to look are the farming press, land agents and county councils as some have waiting lists. Members of the Tenant Farmers Association can also access the organisation’s website where tenancies are advertised
Getting to know local agents and businesses which deal with landlords and tenants is essential. In rural practice, everyone knows each other, so if you can prove you are young, enthusiastic and reliable, word will spread
Plan to make the most of show season and research sector specific events through the year. Speak with exhibitors and meet land agents on their show stands
When you eventually want to apply for a tenancy, creating a business plan and completing formal tender documents is not easy. Take time to familiarise yourself with the letting terms and take advice if you need it
Bear in mind you will be expected to provide references from professionals, such as your bank manager or accountant, so plan your finances carefully
Before applying, understand your landlord’s motives and objectives for owning the farm and letting it out
Do your skills and knowledge match what the landlord is looking for?
Organisations such as the National Trust and county councils generally look more favourably on an applicant who are prepared to deliver its wider objectives, such as those having commitment to enhancing the natural environment or those with an interest in educational visits and public access
Give yourself time to prepare the business plan and tender documentation – it will take weeks to prepare a well thought-out tender
Your tender should be based on the information you have about the farm, mostly gathered on viewing days and from the particulars. If a draft tenancy is available, familiarise yourself with its terms
You may be required to prepare extras
How much do you tender?
Decide on a rent which is sustainable
Do not overestimate the rental value. It might win the farm, only to leave you with a huge financial burden and failing business
The Tenant Farmer Association has a rent databank full of comparable rents, so look at the pattern of rents in your area
Make sure you think about all costs and work out what you are actually paying for
Be realistic. Improvements and repairs will cost you time and money and, until they are done, they may hold you back
In last week’s Farmers Guardian we caught up Yorkshire farmer Jonathan Grayshon, who recently won a tenancy at Humberstone Bank Farm. He tells us some of the questions he was asked as part of his application: