Starter farm initiative - tenant insights: review

This report is an evaluation from the perspective of the tenants of the starter farm initiative of 9 starter farms which were made available from 2012 for a period of 10 years.

The Tenants

Skills development

Figure 6 reveals the average rating (on a scale of 0-10) of a range of business skills pre-tenancy and at the point of the interview. Whilst across all skills the average rating has increased there were notable exceptions where the interviewees thought that the more they learned of a skill, the less they rated their competence level. Overall, pre-tenancy the tenants reported highest levels of competency in 'practical husbandry' (7.0), communicating (6.4) and leadership (5.8) whilst the lowest average ranked skills related to woodland management (3.7), conservation management (4.1) and investment appraisal (4.6). Whilst husbandry skills currently remain highly ranked on average (8.0), negotiating skills (8.0), forward budgeting (7.6) communicating (7.6) and leadership (7.6) also rank highly.

The general improvement in the range of skills is apparent, with the listed skills in Figure 6 ranked based on relative average improvement as reported by interviewees. However, there are a mix of factors that affect personal development and these changes were not always attributable, or fully attributable, to the starter farm tenancy. For example, respondents often could link skills improvements to the tenancy but also from personal growth from contract farming, training courses and off farm jobs.

When asked which personal improvements each of the interviewees had developed the most as a result of the tenancy the most common answers related to the financial management of the business, but included leadership skills, decision making, business confidence, marketing and business and personal resilience.

Most of the interviewees (6 of 8) had attended Farm Advisory Service (FAS) meetings and Monitor Farms, whilst half had used the FAS New Entrants service. Three had attended / used Farming for a Better Climate meetings and resources and one engaged with Farm North East.

Figure 6 Ratings of pre-tenancy and current tenant skills
Figure 6, a bar chart showing the ratings of a pre-tenancy and current tenant skills, on a 0 (no skills) to 10 (competent) skill rating.

Attachment to farm and local community

Nearly all of interviewees felt that they had 'emotionally invested' in the starter farm. Seven said they 'treated the farm as if it were their own'. Seven interviewees felt that they were now part of the local community and felt embedded in it. Examples of community embeddedness that were discussed throughout the interviews included cooperative working relationships with other local farmers, contract farming relationships on local land, contracting, employing local people, children attending local schools, participating in and supporting local events, etc.

"Embeddedness with communities, particularly where children are attending local schools and farm households are reliant on local off-farm job / local contracting as income streams, likely means that modern ties to part-time tenancies are stronger than historically where tenants may have been more mobile".

Steven Thomson, Reader in Agricultural Economics and Policy, SRUC



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