Cumbria Farmer Network (Rural Futures) has established itself
in less than two years with membership already well over target and funding
reserves setting the foundation for economic security.
Directors at the annual meeting, left to right Thomas Whiteford, Steve
Marsden, Alex Smith, Ken Pears, Judith Emmott, John Thirlwall and Will
Farmers gave their financial backing in January 2006 to take over
in the summer of that year the role established by Cumbria’s
Rural Futures, a project of Voluntary Action Cumbria, to help them
meet change and secure their own futures as well as that of rural
And at the company’s third annual meeting at Threlkeld,
near Keswick, on Thursday (January 17) company secretary Paul Harper
reported a membership rise from 320 at the end of August 2006 to
455 in 12 months – a 42 per cent rise over the previous period
and well over its original membership targets.
During the non-profit making company’s first full 12 months
of trading to the end of August 2007, it has had a surplus of income
over expenditure of £41,700 which is £6,600 less than
the grant aid towards administration costs received during that
As much as £130,000 worth of funding had been generated
for projects during the trading year to benefit farmers in the
Mr Harper, who congratulated the membership on building such a
company run by farmers, reported: “I still have to pinch
myself when I think how quickly the company has developed a good
reputation with funding agencies as being able to manage and deliver
projects that are closely linked to members needs. This shows
that farmers are capable of working together and will get the support
of the public sector, if they deliver to a high standard”.
“The policy on generating a surplus this year, despite being
a not-for-profit company has been deliberate”.
“The directors and I have taken the view that we need to
generate a surplus in the early years of trading to generate reserves
that can be used in future to cover cash flow deficits and it invest
in new activities that have the potential to generate a net income
because it is unlikely that all administration costs will be able
to be met from income and private sponsorship.”
He estimates that the level of reserves needs to be around £50,000
to manage cash flow as many projects are funded retrospectively.
Mr Harper added: “I am confident that the company can grow
to become sustainable without grant aid to cover core administration
“To achieve this we need farmer members to continue to get
involved and help us to help them. Some sectors are facing severe
problems and will need all the help we and others can give to them
to help them survive.”
The new board of directors elected at the annual meeting were:
Eden, John Thirlwall and Eileen Simpson; Allerdale, Ken Pears and
Judith Emmott; Carlisle, Claire Scott and Thomas Whiteford; South
Lakeland, Steve Marsden and Alex Smith; Copeland, William Rawling
and Richard Maxwell.
Cumbria Farmer Network has had a high level of commitment from
directors, office manager and the team which regularly works for
the company, support which will be necessary to continue to grow
the company. They have also had financial support from the
Northern Rock Foundation, Cumbria Community Foundation, Hadfield
Trust, Carrs Billington, the University of Cumbria and other local
It has worked with a number of partner organisations and has been
successful in managing several funded projects.
Among activities during the year, Cumbria Farmer Network has:
- Organised 33 mainly technical farm demonstrations and workshops
- Made two collections amounting to 125 tonnes for the Farm Plastic
Recycling Scheme which just broke even despite a grant of almost £10,000.
Cost effective negotiations have been made with Solway Recycling
for this year’s scheme which has no membership restrictions
- Held 15 farm demonstrations in a joint project with Cumbria
Farm Link in a catchment sensitive farming project to help farmers
in west and south Cumbria minimise fertiliser costs and reduce
- Run a farm assistants’ scheme, ending July 2007 and starting
a new scheme for 2007-08
- Started the Hills Alive project with farmers in Cumbria, Northumberland
and the Peak District to find how other areas are facing the
- Made video diaries with the objective of educating the public
with an authentic view of hill farming in the Lake District
- Established a carcase disposal scheme in time for the 2008
The carcase disposal scheme’s progress was outlined by outgoing
chairman Will Rawling who had been discussing the possibility of
collection centres for easily handleable animals such as sheep
and lambs with the State Veterinary Service over the busy period
Non-registered agricultural land could be used with approval by
the SVS and hunt kennels were a possible site with the background
of hunt staff experience.
Following discussions with John Bogie, of Dumfries-based Dundas
Chemicals, preliminary costings for a scheme administered by Cumbria
Farmer Network involving non-agricultural sites had come up with
a figure of £9 a head for collection for Farmer Network members – compared
with the current £18 a head for individual collection.
Mr Rawling said the sites would be operated with strict biosecurity
and he urged interested groups of farmers to contact him.
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