PCF at Groundswell

June 24, 2022

On Wednesday 22nd June, team PCF decamped to Groundswell, hosted by the Cherry family at their farm in Weston, Hertfordshire.

The regenerative agriculture festival is now in its fifth year and saw 5,000 farmers from across the UK (and further afield) attend to listen to a packed schedule of talks, demonstrations, and discussions. We were really pleased to be hosting a panel on “Removing barriers for young people in farming”, hosted by one of our trustees, David Fursdon.

PCF Project Officer Liz King spoke about her experience coming from a family farm, and was joined by Chris Woodhead (@superseriousfarmer on Instagram) a new entrant farming beef, sheep and goats in Kent and Liz Tree, a student at Harper Adams who is trying to enter the industry with no farming background.

The discussion was wide ranging, with participants agreeing that farming is about to see a big period of change and the ‘traditional’ path of taking on a farm as a first step is going to change – and that it’s vital for those looking to enter the industry to put themselves out there and proactively ask for opportunities.

Other takeaways from the session included:

  • It’s important for people to keep records of their leadership and responsibilities to give to e.g. bank managers if they choose to go out alone if they’re working for other people.
  • Opportunities such as contract grazing can help you to grow a business, but consideration needs to be given to the issues with not having a permanent base – what do you do with your livestock when not on other peoples farms?
  • Support for young people and new entrants is out there, but it can be patchy; Liz Tree had support from various bodies for practical skills such as taking her tractor test, as well as from individuals through mentoring, but financial support to help those looking to grow their businesses was lacking. A good example of this was Dunbia’s Wales YFC Lamb initiative which offers a financial bonus for lamb from younger farmers.
  • The disconnect that children have with where their food comes from, and agriculture not being taught in schools – by being used as an example in subjects such as science and maths – is contributing to a lack of interest in the sector. Technology and innovation can be a way in for those outside the industry, but it’s not the whole solution.
  • Organisations representing young farmers need to work together to advocate for young people and new entrants in a joined up fashion – and farmers need to advocate for the industry as a career, showing the positive parts on platforms such as social media in order to widen access.

Questions from the audience touched on learning from others and schemes such as WWOOFING, how younger farmers are at the forefront of regenerative agriculture, and the part everyone has to play in widening diversity – in all forms – in the industry.

The Prince’s Countryside Fund would like to say a huge thank you to Groundswell, our panellists and all who attended for contributing to such an interesting session. We will be publishing more information about our work with new entrants and young farmers in autumn 2022 – if you’d like to be kept up to date, please sign up to our newsletter.

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