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New entrants secure future in farming with new land initiative

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.

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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.

In the field: Keith Darling, Wiltshire

In the field: Keith Darling, Wiltshire

"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.”



  • If you are interested in working with Keith, contact the Land Partnerships Service, quoting reference 3b-sfdv-ew.



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.”


Frequently asked questions

Q: Who is the service designed for?


Land entrepreneurs:


  • Young farmers with training/experience who wish to set up a new farm business but have no land or capital
  • Experienced farmworkers or land managers who are looking to run their own business
  • People with related business background who are keen to branch out into land-based production
  • Communities or groups looking to set up to invest in community supported projects




  • Late career farmers thinking about succession or winding down, but who can pass on experience to a new generation
  • Family farms where there is now family looking to take on the farm, but they want to keep the land asset
  • New landowners who want to see their land used practically and gainfully, but not farm themselves
  • Active farmers with land they wish to diversify, but without the risks and complexities involved with establishing several enterprises themselves
  • Estate owners who have identified a gap in their estate system Landowning trusts and charities wishing to find cost effective ways of achieving their objectives

Q: How much does it cost to join?


  • It is free to register your interest and discuss options. If you decide to use the service, it then costs £50 per year per opportunity added and £30 per year for those seeking an opportunity. In exchange you become a fully registered client of the service and entered fully into the matching service with phone support from the Fresh Start Land Enterprise Centre. (FSLEC) team, throughout the matching process. Applicants need to be 18 or over.


Q: Is the service confidential?


  • All fully paid members are issued with a unique ID number and only if a match is found does the service release contact and personal details with a client’s consent once a potential match is looking promising. Clients can choose a closed or open status. Client’s details are run through the matching database weekly but are not circulated via any other outlets.


Q: Is there any other support provided?


  • FSLEC will be running additional training on topics such as their Land Partnership workshops, the principals of share farming and tax and legal considerations within joint ventures.


Q: What happens if a match is found?


  • The Land Partnerships Service facilitates the initial introductions of suitably matched clients, and gives support by phone and email. It will help identify the processes needed to be considered in a match situation and highlight the professionals that can help with the process.


Q: What doesn’t the service offer?


  • The service helps to define and write the agreements set up between clients. A guideline structure is provided, but it is up to clients to decide on their agreement type and instruct professionals to help to achieve this when they are ready.


  • 25 acres of land and 4 acres of coppice woodland available for share farming opportunity in South Herefordshire.
  • Current farmer looking for an entrepreneur with a horticulture business model to share farm and develop enterprise such as market garden, winery or orchards to serve the growing ‘foody’ interest in the region.
  • Owner can offer barns, tractor and possible accommodation for rental.
  • If you are interested in the opportunity on offer you will be required to register your interest via our registration form and become a member of our Land Partnerships Service in order for us to make sure we are correctly matching our clients.


To register your interest in this please contact Fresh Start Land Enterprise Centre on or call 07771 911905 quoting Ref do-dkrp-pc


  • Experienced shepherd, currently looking after 1500 ewes and lambs at foot, is seeking an opportunity in the Wiltshire region to continue with his own flock of pedigree sheep and 450 commercial ewes once current employment ends in October 2017.
  • Will be able to supply tractor work skills at silage and harvest, shearing and paperwork experience.
  • Looking for a business partner with land, buildings and accommodation who has an interested in developing a sheep farming business.


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 or call 07771 911905 quoting Ref 3b-sfdv-ew

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