Two recent surveys highlight the continued move away from farming by young people in rural areas. In a post Brexit world where the farming industry will be more dependent than ever on the entrepreneurial skills and enthusiasm of the next generation, this is an issue which must be addressed as the Government begins development of a new strategy for agriculture. So says Graeme Bruce, director of rural property consultants YoungsRPS and head of the Alnwick office.
Surveys conducted by NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland interviewed 500 young farmers each with a view to assessing their main issues of concern within farming. The conclusions of the two were broadly the same, difficulties over succession, lack of access to finance and business skills support and advice. This is then compounded by the difficulties faced by all rural communities in a lack of affordable housing and the availability of high speed broadband, an essential component in developing new business and diversification opportunities.
“In my role as a chartered surveyor, succession issues are something we see and help our clients to sort out on a regular basis,” comments Graeme Bruce. “Farming has changed,” he says “the mixed family farm of around 400 acres is no longer able to support two generations of the same family. Father doesn’t want to or can’t afford to retire, and the younger generation are put off from joining the business by the lack of opportunity to borrow and develop it for the future.
“According to the Defra Farm Business Survey of 2015/16 around 62 per cent of farms now operate some form of diversification, and one third of total farm business income now comes from sources other than farming. It is the younger generation who have the enthusiasm and skills to develop these enterprises and we need to find ways to assist. At YoungsRPS we sponsor the Northumberland Young Farmers, a great organisation which helps to keep the farmers of the future in the countryside.
Joanna Harrison, current Chair of Northumberland YFC said “YoungsRPS has continued to support our organisation which gives our members the opportunities to get involved with a range of events and competitions. We recently held our Entertainments competition which resulted in Whitley Chapel YFC progressing to the National Semi Finals in Retford. Furthermore we had a successful Northern Area Weekend where we came fifth overall as a county which is an incredible achievement. The girls netball team which consisted of members from Stamfordham, Cambo and Haltwhistle, came second and reached the National Finals in July. As well as this Kate Spottiswood from Bellingham YFC has reached the finals of the Situations Vacant competition. We are very grateful to the continued support from YoungsRPS and we hope this can enhance our success in the future.”