The next generation: Connecting young farmers

The Sustainable Food Trust and New Food Entrepreneurs are hosting an evening session at the ORFC aimed at the next generation of food producers. How do we encourage more people to become “real farmers”? What are the problems young farmers and new entrants face? And how can we tackle these?

We know that the average age of farmers in the UK is 59 and that there are fewer young people coming forward to replace them, so how do we secure the future of sustainable food production in the UK? It seems clear that we need more people to see agriculture as a viable livelihood and to engage in “real farming”.

“Farming is too much hard work for not enough pay.” The economic burden on farmers is one of the main reasons many young people from farming families are choosing other career paths. Cost of land and housing and poor economic incentives drive people away from agriculture and are prohibitive to new entrants. County farms and starter farms, along with other models such as share farming, are important to enable the next generation.

Despite the difficulties, farming can provide a meaningful, healthy and rewarding occupation. But there is a need for clear information for young people – with so many choices to make, it can seem a daunting task. What to produce? How to sell it? Who can help find land, loans, expertise, training and so on? Who can help with business planning advice and support?

There is a lot of information and support for would-be food producers “out there”, but it can be immensely time-consuming to find it and, at times, bewildering to sift through to what’s relevant for the searcher. Too many websites are out of date. Too many programmes are no longer running. It’s enough to put off all but the most determined.

In our session we will hear from young people who have just started out, who have pursued innovative ideas and who are making a success of their ventures. We will also hear from farmers who have been in the business a long time and can offer some wisdom and perspective to people just beginning their journey. The session is for all those looking to get into farming and for young farmers to come along and feel a sense of community – it can often be a lonely business and one where likeminded young people are hard to meet. Now is your chance to come together, grab a drink and join the conversation. We hope to see you there!

Session details:

Secrets of Success: Young farmers and new entrants

7pm on 3rd January, upstairs in St Aldate’s Tavern

New Food Entrepreneurs is a project of the Conservation Farming Trust, which aims to bring together partners from across the sector to help answer these questions and create a facilitating environment for would-be producers. We have been collecting stories from successful enterprises to inspire a new community of entrants to the sector and will be working with partners to curate a programme of services and activities to support them in the coming months. If you’d like to share your story or lend your support, we’d love to hear from you.

The Sustainable Food Trust is a registered charity that works to accelerate the transition to more sustainable food systems. Founded in 2011 by Patrick Holden, we seek to work catalytically and collaboratively to bring about change. Some of our key areas of work include true cost accounting, our campaign for local abattoirs, our work on bringing about convergence in on-farm sustainability assessment and the role of livestock in sustainable systems.

By Megan Perry, Sustainable Food Trust