[F]or six years The Prince’s Trust and The Prince’s Countryside Fund have supported The Farmer Network in encouraging young people in to the farming industry. The unique programme, which is now known as Business Support for Young People, has in that time ensured that 76 young people in Cumbria and The Yorkshire Dales have followed their dream and started the process to set up or develop a farming related business. On completing the programme, many have created new businesses and most of these are still going strong. Now the Prince’s Trust has offered a further two years financial support up to July 2019.
The programme is offered to 18- 30 year olds who have a farm-related business idea but are limited by the resources or opportunities available to them. It comprises a short course on the basics of business planning, one-to-one support from an experienced farm business adviser and the chance to apply for a low interest loan and training grant, plus ongoing support from a volunteer business mentor.
Kate Gascoyne has project managed the scheme for several years. She says “The types of new business ventures we have supported has been quite varied across Cumbria and The Yorkshire Dales. To date they include brand new beef and sheep enterprises, agricultural engineering and repairs businesses, sheep contracting services, cheese production from home produced milk, commercial duck egg production and others.”
Nineteen year old Georgia Hunter from Ravenstonedale took part in last year’s programme and has already set up her Caprameats business, rearing and finishing the young goats from her parents’ dairy herd. Her business mentor is Mark Curr, who was one of the first young people to take advantage of the scheme to develop his own sheep business six years ago. Georgia said “The programme helped me to organise my ideas into a business plan, really test it out, and get all the certificates I need. My allocated business adviser, Everley Buckley, was there with me, helping me to do the planning and take it step by step. I am concentrating on sales to hotels and restaurants, as well as direct to customers and through Farmers Markets.”
Simon Dalton farms at Hallbankgate near Brampton, where he took on his grandfather’s farm tenancy in 2013 and developed his own commercial and pedigree herd of Longhorn sucklers. He used the support of the programme and a loan and grants from the Prince’s Trust to buy cattle, farm equipment and training to enable him to develop his business. Simon praises the support he had with business planning at the start from his farm business adviser, through the management of his loan with The Prince’s Trust and from his local volunteer business mentor. “The information and advice is so valuable to help you think things through, even if you don’t end up going for a loan. I recommend anyone in the eligible age group to make contact with The Farmer Network to find out more and to take the opportunity to participate if it is offered to them.
Martin Holliday was a member of the second group of participants in 2012. He used the support of The Farmer Network scheme to plan out his sheep services business in West Cumbria. A loan helped him to buy sheep handling and recording equipment. He expects to pay off the loan this year and says “Don’t miss out on the opportunity that is offered – anyone who is keen to farm or provide services to farmers in the future needs to be good at business – this programme helps you to be as good as you can be and highlights and supports you through things that you need to work on”.
Rob Hitch, chair of the programme’s business launch group said, “The Farmer Network has a proud track record delivering business support for young people. The extended Prince’s Trust funding has ensured that during this difficult time leading up to Brexit, young people can still proceed with a good farm business idea, and will be supported to do so. The wider benefits will be felt across the industry and in local communities as these start-up businesses look to flourish in the future”.
The new funding has already kicked in and The Farmer Network will be hosting an “Explore Enterprise” session in the coming months for any new applicants.
Young people who are passionate about starting or developing their own farming-related business, within or close to Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales, should contact Kate Gascoyne at The Farmer Network on 01768 881462, Mobile 07548 934282 or E mail: [email protected]