2017-09-29 

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Farmer Network Wins Support to Help Young People into Farming

For six years The Prince’s Trust and The Prince’s Countryside Fund have supported The Farmer Network in encouraging young people in to the farming industry.

The unique programme, which is now known as Business Support for Young People, has in that time ensured that 76 young people in Cumbria and The Yorkshire Dales have followed their dream and started the process to set up or develop a farming related business. On completing the programme, many have created new businesses and most of these are still going strong. Now the Prince’s Trust has offered a further two years financial support up to July 2019.

Martin Holliday

Martin Holliday

The programme is offered to 18-30 year olds who have a farm-related business idea but are limited by the resources or opportunities available to them. It comprises a short course on the basics of business planning, one-to-one support from an experienced farm business adviser and the chance to apply for a low interest loan and training grant, plus ongoing support from a volunteer business mentor.

Kate Gascoyne has project managed the scheme for several years. She says;
“The types of new business ventures we have supported has been quite varied across Cumbria and The Yorkshire Dales. To date they include brand new beef and sheep enterprises, agricultural engineering and repairs businesses, sheep contracting services, cheese production from home produced milk, commercial duck egg production and others.”

Rob Hitch, chair of the programme’s business launch group said,
The Farmer Network has a proud track record delivering business support for young people. The extended Prince’s Trust funding has ensured that during this difficult time leading up to Brexit, young people can still proceed with a good farm business idea, and will be supported to do so. The wider benefits will be felt across the industry and in local communities as these start-up businesses look to flourish in the future”.

The new funding has already kicked in and The Farmer Network will be hosting an “Explore Enterprise” session in the coming months for any new applicants.

Case Studies

Graham Smith, from near Skipton was working full time for a motorsport fabrication company and using his welding skills to maintain and repair farmers’ equipment on evenings and weekends. After much deliberation, he took the leap and left full time employment with the intention of being a subcontract welder. “A few months after I had started self-employment I heard about The Farmer Network programme and decided to apply. After attending the weekend workshops, I worked with a business adviser to help produce a business plan to develop my agricultural implement manufacture and repair business. John, my adviser was a tremendous help and I still use or reflect on his comments and advice to guide me. In many respects, the advice I had was more valuable than the loan I received. I used the business plan to apply for funding and was offered a loan and grant to help me develop the business. The funds enabled me to invest in new products, new ideas and promote myself more than I could have done without it”.

Tony Clifton, Nidderdale, is not from a farming family, he studied for a National Diploma in Agriculture at Bishop Burton and worked on a sheep and beef farm in New Zealand afterwards. “I moved to Upper Nidderdale and heard about the Farmer Network Programme from a farmer who I was lambing for at the time. At age 23, I thought that it sounded like a way of progressing my long-term idea of becoming a farmer in my own right. Last year I was working for several local farmers regularly, as well as running my own expanding flock of horned and mule sheep. I was aiming to run 150 ewes by the end of the year, as a step towards a farm tenancy in the long run. Since then, I have had to reduce the flock because most of the grazing I had suddenly became unavailable and it will take a while to build up again. As with most business plans and life, nothing works out exactly like you’d hoped, but I feel that doing the course and the planning helped me to become more self-reliant and able to adapt. Breeding my own flock replacements, building a regular farm-work base and shearing with another contractor has given me further business experience. The Explore Enterprise course explained the paperwork and planning that goes with running a business. I also found it helpful talking to others on the course to test out ideas and pick up new ones. My allocated business adviser helped me to think through and plan a way forward, and gave me confidence. The Prince’s Trust loan process was testing, but very straightforward and I would recommend it to other young people wanting to get on and take opportunities that are just out of reach from their present circumstances”.

James Lund (23) wanted to develop a livestock rearing enterprise using some buildings that are part of, but separate from the family business, to build up some stock and develop his farm business skills. “The Explore Enterprise course in 2015 gave me general information about running a business and my allocated business adviser, John Pedley, really helped me to plan out my ideas. The loan and grant that I was awarded have enabled me to rear 40 calves a year for the past 2 years. I have reared different kinds of calves for different markets as well as doing self-employed work for other farmers to help me pay off the loan. I was allocated Ted Ogden from Craven Auction as a business mentor, because the buying and selling are crucial to my business.”

Thomas Noblet and wife Clare farm in in partnership with Max and Jenny Burrows, who wanted to gradually retire, but keep an interest in the pedigree Holstein dairy herd that they had built up at Whin Yeats Farm, near Carnforth. The programme helped Thomas and Clare to get business advice, grants and a loan from the Prince’s Trust to enable them to gradually buy the Burrows’ out of the herd and to set up a temporary share-farming agreement. They have put new energy into the farm and the herd over the past five years and recently started processing some of the milk into cheese.

“Falling milk prices led us to look at ways of adding value to our milk and in 2015 we put in a small dairy and began to make some of our milk into cheese. We now make two types of cheese; both are hand-made, unpasteurised and are cloth-bound and buttered before being stored. We currently make cheese one day a week, using 500 litres of milk to make 50kg of cheese which we sell through specialist cheese shops, local shops and from the farm. Completing the Farmer Network scheme was invaluable in terms of the business advice we gained – the Explore Enterprise course covered all aspects of business planning and marketing, whilst the access to a business advisor meant that we were able to put together a sound business plan specific to us. Without The Farmer Network running the Prince’s Trust programme in this area, we would have been unlikely to secure loans or funding from other sources, so are grateful for all the work that goes into running it”.

The programme also helped John Longworth to get business advice, a training grant and a loan from the Prince’s Trust to help him to set up as a farm services contractor in South Cumbria. He said;
“I gained a lot from the experience of going through the Explore Enterprise Course and especially the business advice. It didn’t work out for me straight away, but I am using what I have learned to now develop and expand my agricultural contracting services, providing baling, grain crushing, slurry-tanking and spraying. I am recommending the programme to other young farmers in my role as Chairman of Cumbria Southern District Young Farmers Clubs”.

Jodie Swan from Cartmel Fell is very determined to develop her own sheep flock and livestock skills as a business. The programme helped her to expand her own small flock and develop her skills, which will hopefully open up new opportunities for her. “The Explore Enterprise course gave me the knowledge and confidence about the book-keeping and business planning that I needed and also encouragement through being with others who had similar ambitions. After exploring options with my business adviser and securing some grazing in South Cumbria, I applied for a small loan and a training grant from the scheme to help buy 30 mule ewes. I bought 20 to start with, but have built up to 40 over the last 3 years. I have learned a lot and am much more confident now in managing my small flock of sheep. I have secured some more grazing and am planning to gradually increase the flock size if I can find more grazing. I have recently purchased some North Country Cheviots with the money made from selling my lambs. I am planning to start my own registered breeding flock, which I see as a big step forward towards my dream. It’s a great opportunity!”

Charlie Long from the Ulverston area has been helped to expand his farm fabrications and welding workshop, skills and business over the past 3 years. He said “I trade as C.S. Long Steel Fabrication and the business support has helped me to gradually develop the business, including upgrading the business’s certification status for structural steel works, to open up new farm building markets”.

Nineteen year old Georgia Hunter from Ravenstonedale took part in last year’s programme and has already set up her Caprameats business, rearing and finishing the young goats from her parents’ dairy herd. Her business mentor is Mark Curr, who was one of the first young people to take advantage of the scheme to develop his own sheep business six years ago. Georgia said;
“The programme helped me to organise my ideas into a business plan, really test it out, and get all the certificates I need. My allocated business adviser, Everley Buckley, was there with me, helping me to do the planning and take it step by step. I am concentrating on sales to hotels and restaurants, as well as direct to customers and through Farmers Markets.”

Simon Dalton farms at Hallbankgate near Brampton, where he took on his grandfather’s farm tenancy in 2013 and developed his own commercial and pedigree herd of Longhorn sucklers. He used the support of the programme and a loan and grants from the Prince’s Trust to buy cattle, farm equipment and training to enable him to develop his business. Simon praises the support he had with business planning at the start from his farm business adviser, through the management of his loan with The Prince’s Trust and from his local volunteer business mentor. “The information and advice is so valuable to help you think things through, even if you don’t end up going for a loan. I recommend anyone in the eligible age group to make contact with The Farmer Network to find out more and to take the opportunity to participate if it is offered to them.

Martin Holliday was a member of the second group of participants in 2012. He used the support of The Farmer Network scheme to plan out his sheep services business in West Cumbria. A loan helped him to buy sheep handling and recording equipment. He expects to pay off the loan this year and says;
“Don’t miss out on the opportunity that is offered – anyone who is keen to farm or provide services to farmers in the future needs to be good at business - this programme helps you to be as good as you can be and highlights and supports you through things that you need to work on”.

Farmer Network

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