Millennials are crucial to the future of farming

A new report has revealed that millennial famers are facing serious, unnecessary challenges - as the number of young people entering the sector continues to fall, and those already in the sector can't grow and diversify their farms.

Wednesday, 1st February 2017, 5:00 am
Our Cow Molly

The report, Harvesting the future for Young Farmers, is calling for a more joined-up, cross-government, farming sector and finance framework.

The report is based on a landmark study of over 500 young and potential new entrant farmers in Britain, combined with insight and analysis of the future farming economic scenarios in the UK. The study reveals key challenges to entering and succeeding in the industry. These include:

Our Cow Molly

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- ‘Dead man’s shoes’ syndrome - limited succession opportunities, often combined with the complexity of family dynamics and intergenerational issues.

- An inability to embrace new farming models - despite 20 per cent of young farmers surveyed stating that they are looking for new ways to access farming, such as share farming.

- Access to funding and varying levels of business skills, with 36 per cent of those surveyed saying they did not have access to sufficient resources to develop their businesses.

However, the research findings also show that these millennial farmers hold a huge economic potential and are driving significant enterprise trends in the agricultural sector.

Our Cow Molly

Eddie Andrew’s dad Hector launched family-run dairy farm ‘Our Cow Molly’ in Sheffield in 1947, with just ten cows for milk production. Today the company has an 84-strong herd, but Eddie says they are still facing the huge challenges which have been affecting the dairy sector for some time.

“The reality is that dairy farmers are really suffering,” said Eddie.

“We are the last dairy farm left in Sheffield bottling our own milk. There is little confidence in young farmers to carry on dairy farming and the fact is that few, if any dairy farmers are actually covering their costs. Young farmers need to see something that works, and the fact that most dairies are currently loss making is very uninspiring.”

Eddie and his family had to diversify to survive, offering customers something the big retailers could never do – #SuperFreshMilk. With the help of NatWest they bought pasteurising equipment, storage tanks, a milk filling line, cooling tanks and a generator and they now work through the night to deliver the freshest possible milk to their customers the following morning.

Their hard work has earned them the BBC Food and Farming Future Food Award for convincing local businesses to pay more for their super fresh ‘Made in Sheffield’ milk and was highlighted as a model that would help save many more of the UK’s struggling dairy farmers.

Eddie added: “We have forged a new way of working and we believe this type of relationship can be developed between other dairies and local businesses and institutions, enabling customers to have access to much fresher milk direct from the farm, which is an asset to the community.”