Prospective young farmers told ‘seek experience off the family farm first’

Laurie Norris, county adviser for North Riding and Durham at the National Farmers' Union. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Laurie Norris, county adviser for North Riding and Durham at the National Farmers' Union. Picture by Tony Johnson.
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Prospective young farmers would be well served to seek experiences away from the family business before returning to succeed or work alongside their parents, according to a regional farm adviser.

By spending time off the family farm at an early stage of their working lives, young people can gain a valuable perspective and extra skills that bode well for their future farming careers, said Laurie Norris, county adviser for the North Riding at the National Farmers’ Union.

Speaking at The Yorkshire Post’s Rural Awards debate in Leeds yesterday about farming succession, Ms Norris said: “One of the best pieces of advice you could give anybody is don’t go straight to the farm, go off and do something different, even if it’s still farming but farming elsewhere.”

In a new post-Brexit era for farming when policy is dictated by Whitehall rather than Brussels, the structure of farming businesses is expected to shift as part of an adjustment to farm payments being increasingly linked to the delivery of “public goods”.

Ms Norris believes that the next generation would be equipping themselves well for the new era by seeking a period of work or study away from the family holding.

“Just get that wider experience and I think it brings back a much fresher perspective on the business and it’s less likely to see you carry on and do just what your parents have done. Farming has a tremendous capacity to change,” she said.

Harriet Reid, an associate solicitor at Silk Family Law, said a lot of farming parents are now keen for their children to experience something else while they are young.

“Certainly from my peer group, parents are pushing their children to do something else but obviously hoping that ultimately they do what they are going to do differently for a couple of years elsewhere and then come back to the farm - that seems to be acceptable now,” she said.

There is no shortage of fresh blood in the industry, reported Dorothy Fairburn, northern director of the Country Land and Business Association, who said: “Colleges and universities are better stocked with agricultural students now. I think there will always be young people coming in.

“There will always be people desperate to farm.”