The farming industry must embrace smart and innovative land management techniques to give young people their first foot on the farming ladder.
That was the message the CLA’s director of policy, Christopher Price. gave to a group of 150 young farmers gathered for a recent one-day conference at the Rheged Centre in Penrith.
Organised by Farmers Weekly, the Fertile Minds event was aimed at providing young people with practical tools to help them succeed in the world of agricultural business. It included a line-up of inspirational speakers, business-savvy young farmers and industry experts, as well as interactive workshops.
The key message from Mr Price was that share farming provided a simple solution to one of the industry’s most pressing problems, its rising age profile.
“We need to be doing more to encourage young people to get into farming, and more to make it easier for those who want to leave the industry to do so at a pace of their own choosing and in way which means we don’t lose all their experience and expertise,” he said.
“The problem with traditional farming arrangements is that a farmer is either in or out.
“Share farming provides a middle ground whereby an older farmer, who may not be ready to retire or who maybe cannot afford to do so, can start to wind down without having to worry about paying the bills.”
Figures from Defra show that around 25% of farmers in England are aged 65 or over while a further 32% are aged between 55 and 65.
This means more than half of the country’s farmers are more than 55-years-old.
Share farming differs from traditional contract farming in so far as both parties share the risk and the profits on a pre-agreed percentage.
The existing farmer simply provides a proportion of his farmland for the partner to work, providing an option that can suit the needs of both.
Mr Price added: “Now more than ever, we need smart and innovative land management techniques such as share farming that will provide social, environmental and economic benefits.
“If just a quarter of the country’s farmers aged over 65 entered in to a share farming agreement, it would allow more than 3,000 new entrants to start working the land.”
The CLA is the membership body for landowners, farmers and rural businesses, representing more than 6,000 members throughout the North of England.
The organisation supports landowners by advising them on how best to protect and maximise their land assets.
CLA members own approximately half the rural land in England and Wales.