With Tony in the thick of lambing it is my turn for the pen, writes John.
At busy times like this we keep communication between us to a minimum. The latest from the front is the first two weeks have produced fewer problems than normal but, now the weather has turned to the normal Craven wet, a good crop of triplets lambed outside is proving pretty hard work. No doubt many readers will know the feeling well.
In our bid to promote of share farming I have spoken to a variety of audiences over the turn of the year. We continue to aim at the professionals – land agents, lawyers and accountants – on the grounds share farming should be on their menu of what might happen to a given piece of land, alongside contract farming or Farm Business Tenancys (FBT). While it is not, tricks are being missed to the detriment of all parties.
Every time the common question is how to get young people into farming. Having spoken at several of our excellent northern colleges, I am hugely encouraged by the fact they are awash with bright, educated and practical young people who want to farm. So in my view, the problem really lies with the old brigade and how they shove over and make room.
The snag with farming is it is difficult for the older end to ease out, except where there are family to take on. Share farming is the one system which can allow for that. Too often the thought of complete retirement is so awful, folk will keep going when their body is really not up to it. But joining forces with a younger set of legs can solve that.
Equally the costs of starting to farm on your own account are often too great for an incomer to tackle; but share farming can allow them to ease in as the older generation eases out. With an interested landlord this could just as easily apply to an aging tenant with a pre-FBT but no successor.
All these are examples of the possibilities being missed because share farming is still not part of the general thinking within the industry.
We are delighted there has been a steady trickle of enquiries since we started these articles, and we are happy to help if we can. We feel sure there are quite a few share farming arrangements, both in existence and in the making but, as the people involved are not looking for publicity, it is hard to know about them. So, if you are not too shy, why not write to editor Emma Penny (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let us know.
Tony Shepherd farms 112ha (227 acres) as a share farmer with landowner John Henderson at St Helens Farm, Eshton, near Skipton. The all grass LFA unit, rising to 240 metres (800ft) lies within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They run 150-200 store cattle and 450 Mule ewes, lambing at the end of March.