Generating debate about what future has in store
GARY MITCHELL, vicepresident of the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, says the Highland Show is a platform for farmers to ask themselves: ‘ What generation of farmer are you?’
ONLY three weeks to go until the Royal Highland Show, Scotland’s biggest agricultural event, and I always look forward to this.
From an NFU Scotland perspective, it provides a great opportunity to connect with our members and share with them what we are doing and what we are hoping to achieve over the next 12 months.
This year we plan to have a few extras on the stand, with two information points.
The first information point will relate to modern apprenticeships: How do I find one? How can I become one?
We will be looking for farmers who are seeking a modern apprenticeship and also young people seeking a career in agriculture. To back this up, on the Friday afternoon of the show we will be holding a seminar on how this all comes together at farm level.
We will also highlight how Scotland’s farmers are now connecting with schools through the Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) programme, which aims to better prepare our children and young people for the world of work.
Also, our partners NFU Mutual will be explaining the liability cover required by farmers who employ people and the risk assessments which need to be carried out to make sure we are all complying with current regulations. I believe some vouchers entitling you to a free risk assessment may even be on offer – plus our legendary strawberry tarts if you are feeling peckish.
The second information point will be all about NFU Scotland’s New Generation Working Group, which brings me to the question I want our visitors to ask themselves: ‘What gener- ation are you?’ Are you new, current or mature?
I believe you can’t put age ranges on these categories but as a 47-year- old farmer myself, I believe I would be in the ‘current’ category. I write this as a single man with no offspring to inherit the debt. I know many other farmers in the same position, so what’s the plan?
I think there is a real opportunity here to bring shareholders into our businesses, whether through building up livestock numbers or machinery provision. We need to get ‘buy in’ to these kinds of ideas or we will all end up grumpy old farmers, stressed out and ready for the grave.
I have heard some positive stories of share farming happening around Scotland and if you are reading this and you are one of these farmers, please do come and speak to us and share your experiences, as we need to get a template for this kind of succession plan.
If you are in that ‘new’ generation category then come and share your aspirations with us and see if we can point you in the right direction to make it happen.
My question to any farmers in the over-50 bracket with noone to follow in your farming footsteps is: what do you want from your business in the next 20 years?
Gary Mitchell wants to explore the possibility of bringing shareholders into the business.