Reflections on the Starter Farm Journey
The alternative pathway to the starter farms
The tenants were asked to rate (on a scale of 0-10 where 0 was definitely not and 10 was definitely) if they thought they would be farming in their own right now without the starter farm initiative. One was clear that they would be farming regardless of the initiative (score 8) with five tenants uncertain / verging to unlikely (scoring 3-5) with two of the tenants certain they would not be farming on their own right without the starter farm (scoring 0 -1).
There were many interesting views expressed on what they would now be doing without their starter farm tenancy. Four said that if they didn't get the starter tenancy they would be working in jobs connected to the agricultural sector, three said they would be continuing with their seasonal lets, two said they would be trying to get a tenancy. One also said that they would have considered leaving the industry all together.
When asked how being a tenant farmer differed from the alternatives the general consensus was that it would be less stressful, they would have a better work-life balance, for some they would be financially better off however they would have less personal satisfaction than being a tenant farmer. For example:
- "Working as XXX and we would be in a stronger position. Personal achievement and satisfaction would not be as high. This is what we want to do."
- "I probably wouldn't say I struggle to fall asleep at night because I've got so much debt around my neck. On the whole, I'm probably happier doing what I'm doing now."
- "If [I was still] farming seasonal lets I think I would be less financially stable and probably that would have lead to less personal satisfaction. I may have left the industry."
- "I'd still be doing seasonal lets and trying to get a tenancy and doing XXX – I enjoy [the starter farm tenancy] that far more than previous job. I have far more stock and machinery than I would have had but less liquid cash."
Supporting others to take on a starter farm
Encouragingly, the majority of interviewees would encourage other potential new entrants to take on a starter farm with five answering "10 definitely", one was unsure giving a response of 5 on the rating scale. Whilst there were concerns about the future of the scheme many tenants remain upbeat about their experiences and hopes for others following in their tracks:
- "If you don't have a go at some point in time you will wonder whether you should have done"
- "If there were opportunities, would I encourage anyone to do it?...yeah, but I'd quite like to mentor them. I wish someone would have done that for us, or say when we're doing the budgets and showing us where we were."
- "It's a great opportunity- there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration and it cannot be done on a whim. As long as they have good support… it is something I would encourage them to do"
- "Another really good thing about it for us when we go in was there's no in going valuations and for just starting out and business not to have that and going valuations it's massive."
- "Good opportunity for them to grow their business and gives them the chance to thrive."
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