Farming is an aging profession, industry say Britain “desperately” needs young people to choose it as a career, raising questions about how and who will produce the nation’s food in the future. is occurring.
Around 40% of UK farmers are over 65, with an average age of 59, according to experts, despite new labor practices being attractive to younger generations.
The challenge for new UK farmers is significant.
Professor Lee Ann Sutherland of the James Hutton Institute told The Epoch Times, “We need a lot of money for land and equipment.” “And there are two obvious ways to get it: Either you inherit it, or you’re independently wealthy.”
To some extent, however, this diagram is more complicated than it seems.
“Farms tend to be run by families,” explains Sutherland. Those identified as “farmers” tend to be the oldest males. If you calculate the average age of everyone working on the farm, it will be even lower. ”
This may include ‘heirs’, often considered young by the family, more often male, and probably already working on the farm.
But for those looking from the outside or looking to gain a foothold, the land prices are punitive.
“My concern is that there is already consolidation among many people who already own this land,” Sutherland says.
Farming Community Network’s Mark Thomas agrees that most “decision makers” on farms are over the age of 50, but farm sizes and types can vary dramatically, so newcomers I believe there are more opportunities.
“There are large farms in the eastern counties, much smaller hill farming type businesses in Wales and the north of England, and everything in between.
“If you have a small hill farm in the Lake District, you have to look to a different market and you have to do things differently.
“There is real potential for entrepreneurship to emerge from the younger generation.”
He believes their skills complement those of older, more experienced farmers.
Thomas is excited about new technology that allows drones to survey large areas of crops and check roof gutters.
Glasshouse and vertical farming, growing crops in cities as well, from leafy greens to strawberries, are now catering to niche markets like the organic sector.
“Engineering technology, the use of AI and robots, e.g. robotic dairy farming.
“They still need oversight and management, but that’s a slightly different role than traditional ones,” Thomas told the Epoch Times.
A company called Growing Underground makes salads in Clapham, south-west London (more precisely, an underground farm in the city 33 meters below). This tunnel was once part of the old subway system.
The underground farm uses a hydroponic system praised by top chefs such as Michelle Roux Jr. and favored by Dr Gillian Rose, Associate Professor of Agriculture at the University of Reading in the South of England.
With innovations like this, Rose said:
Rose also notices more complete novices entering farming.
“We have seen a shift in the last 10 or 15 years, with half of the students coming to school having no farming experience.”
New blood encourages new ways of thinking and perspectives, she says.
One of the newbies to take up the challenge is 27-year-old Carl Franklin.
Former chef Franklin, who now sells crates of lamb raised in western Oxfordshire in central England, owns what he calls a “flying flock.”
“Ask or borrow or get as much grazing as you can,” he told the Epoch Times.
Most of his ewes are on a 60 acre lot, but he is currently grazing 5 sheep in someone’s yard and gets anything from 0.5 acres to 100 acres.
The motto is “If it’s grass, I’ll do it.”
Franklin says he will travel anywhere within reason, engaging in a sort of barter system of goods and labor in exchange for the right to graze his own sheep.
“I trade all my land for something else, whether it be the work I do for them or for hay.
The resourceful entrepreneur, known on Instagram as the “Fake Farmer,” also has a gardening business. That’s where the hay comes in. His two businesses work together.
Franklin typically spends two days a week with herds of 90 and calves three weeks of lambs in the spring. He describes the experience as intense, draining yet exhilarating.
Young farmers emphasize that they receive only support and encouragement from older generations, including prominent figures in the region.
“One is a very good friend now. He would put up with me calling him anytime to ask him a question. He will take over the surplus grazing.I couldn’t have been more welcome.
“This is a great industry and I would wholeheartedly encourage anyone to get into it.”
Rose believes that the UK’s push towards more locally produced and homegrown food will personalize farming and may also lead younger generations to think about the future of farming.
“I love seeing the farmer’s name on the produce when I walk into a supermarket.
“You can learn more about them by looking at the pictures of farmers and cows on milk cartons.”
All of this makes farming more accessible to the younger generation, which she feels is missing from the school curriculum.
Farming is a long game. It takes 9-12 months for crops to be ready for harvest, 2-3 years for livestock, and 10-15 months for orchards and Christmas tree plantations to be ready for harvest.
Rose is certainly an open space, and the countryside has taken on more importance since the pandemic.
Sutherland cautions, citing research in her native Canada.
“We found many of these newcomers coming in, trying for five years, and then leaving again.”
But she says, “In our post-corona environment, people recognize the value of working off-land with animals. Agriculture has a lot of appeal,” she says.
“I think a lot of people aspire to farming. The problem is making it work economically and getting access to the land.”