Young farmers gather for New Entrants event
Around 150 people gathered at Perth Racecourse this week for a New Entrants to Farming Gathering.
This free event was aimed at Scotland's farmers of the future and was organised by SRUC as part of the Scottish Government's New Entrants to Farming programme.
Attendees heard from inspiring young and new farmers who told their stories with honesty and humour and shared some excellent practical tips with the audience. The event was also a chance to hear from industry experts.
Gordon Caldwell of GC Growers grows seasonal and local vegetables at Dowhill Farm just north of Girvan. As a new entrant, he talked about the importance of not comparing yourself to bigger farmers with better equipment. He said that technical know-how, grants, family support, a willing landlord and a key customer were critical to his survival in the first few years of running his business.
Young farmer Andrew Tullie farms near Hawick in the Scottish Borders. He shared his story of contract farming and recently gaining tenancy of another unit. Andrew started with the quote 'luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity'. Although he comes from a farming background, Andrew stressed the importance of the experience he gained at college, not just from classes but also from like-minded people and visiting other farms. Like Gordon, he also said that family support was very important. His top tips for the audience included buying a good coat and a good dog, being confident and being patient as things can take a long time to come to fruition.
John Campbell shared the story of Glenrath - which won UK Farm Business of the Year in 2004 and 2012. Mr Campbell announced that he would be offering eight young farmers £100,000 at favourable rates to start free range egg farming. You can find out more on the Scotsman website. If you are a young farmer interested in the loan scheme you can email email@example.com for more information.
Gavin Dick from AHDB Cereal & Oilseeds and Jimmy McLean, RBS Chairman, Agriculture gave attendees an insight into resilience, risk and opportunity.
Gavin Dick said that resilence is not about how well you do but about how well you bounce back from adversity. Jimmy McLean said in the future there will be growth in the agriculture sector, but there will also be much greater volatility.
Both speakers talked about possible impacts and sources of risk and volatility. These include pests and diseases, changing weather patterns, soil health and the Euro exchange rate. However, both also stressed that volatility could also lead to opportunities as well as risk for farming businesses.
The final speaker was Rupert Shaw who became a new entrant to farming after retiring from the Army in 2012. He now owns Gledpark, a red deer enterprise that was selected to be a Scottish Government Deer Farm Demonstration unit for 2015. Rupert said that if you want to make a go of it in small scale agriculture you have to produce a quality product rather than a commodity. He also stressed that you don't have to reinvent the wheel or be the first to do something to make money from it.
You can find more information on the New Entrants section of the SRUC website which also features Case Studies, newsletters and information about grants and scholarships. There is also a New Entrants Facebook page.
The Scottish Government's New Entrants to Farming Programme is aimed at those who have recently entered farming and those who plan to do so in the near future. Introductory meetings are followed up with a series of workshops and one-to-one consultation. The programme is free of charge, but participants have to cover travel costs. If you would like to know more contact Kirsten Williams on 01888 563 333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.