Dearth of new blood in farm manager roles

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Farm managers are finally being rewarded with salaries that reflect their seven-days-a-week responsibilities, but little new blood and too few women are progressing to senior management, according to an industry report.

The Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM) warns that a plethora of fresh faces will soon be needed as many farm managers near retirement.

There are benefits for those who do manage to clinch a management position, as salaries for managers have spiked by six per cent since 2012 to an average of just over £53,000, but the opportunities for gaining the experience necessary for the role is proving difficult for many with the days of prospective managers being employed as deputies long gone.

A dearth of opportunities, with many managers also staying longer in their jobs, has seen many of the brightest next generation candidates opt for consultancy work instead.

Tim Brigstocke, chairman of IAgrM, said: “Farm management has undergone a sea change in earnings in the last five years to a salary which nowadays reflects the very skilled position, the whole chain of responsibilities for both legislation-regulation and profitability and the fact it’s a seven days a week job.”

Two thirds of managers also receive rent free housing which together with other non-cash benefits is estimated to be worth an average of £12,600, the report says.

Despite the perks, farm managers are now responsible for much larger areas of land than they were decades ago and the profession lacks new blood. Eighty-six per cent of farm managers are aged over 40, compared with 37 per cent when the IAgrM’s first survey was carried out in 1969.

That farm management is an aging profession is further confirmed with a third of the 100 surveyed having 15 years or less experience in the position compared with twice as many in 1997.

“Despite the rightful rewards, it is an aging profession,” Mr Brigstocke said. “The vast majority of farm managers are between 40 and 59 years, which indicates that the industry needs to attract new managers to cover the loss of those nearing retirement age.”

A third of today’s farm managers are graduates, while the remainder have a diploma or some formal qualification.

Yorkshire remains a hotbed for agricultural study, with Bishop Burton College near Beverley and Askham Bryan College, York, both providing students with platforms for embarking on successful careers in farming.

Jeanette Dawson, principal and chief executive of Bishop Burton says there is no shortage of talented young people with aspirations to become managers.

She said: “The number of agriculture students is growing here at Bishop Burton College and at our Lincolnshire campus, and with 94 per cent of our students progressing to employment or higher education we are certainly producing students ready to enter the industry at a variety of levels and farm management is a popular career goal for our students.”

Young people are increasingly attracted to the sector by the greater integration of technology, in terms of machinery, precision farming and advances in biological science and its role in the livestock production, she said.

“The future looks bright from our perspective and those entering the industry are entering with skills that make them ready for 21st century farming,” Ms Dawson added.