Gen­er­at­ing de­bate about what fu­ture has in store

The Oban Times - - Farming -

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.

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