The agricultural industry is on the verge of a farming crisis unless more young people can be encouraged to work the land, a farming expert has said
Oliver Scott, Farming Manager at Shropshire-based Bradford Estates, said the lack of new blood coming into the industry was continuing, with the last year being the “worst I have ever known” whilst, at the same time more and more farming businesses are being let down last minute by seasonal staff.
“There are simply not enough people coming into the industry, especially amongst the younger generation,” said Oliver, 39, who has worked in farming in both the UK and abroad since he was at school.
In the UK, the average age of a farmer is 58. That means there are many people working the land who are way past the age of retirement. Young people are increasingly looking for jobs in major towns and cities.
Oliver said: “Farming has something of an image problem at the moment. It is seen as hard work, with long hours and much less opportunity for a good work/life balance. The advent of larger and larger machinery has meant that fewer staff are needed and, subsequently, working hours are increasing.”
Oliver said that he thought regulations needed to be looked at to try and prevent these long working hours “There are laws around how long you can drive an HGV for without a break, but there is nothing like that for driving a tractor or a harvester, which can be just as heavy and every bit as dangerous.”
Oliver says changes are afoot in the industry and he wants young people to get a foot in the door at the start
“Regenerative farming, sustainable farming with less artificial fertilisers and fewer fossil fuels, definitely holds the key for UK farming.
“Throughout the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s farming was dominated by the artificial fertiliser and chemical industry; the solution to everything was in a can. Evidence now shows that the side effects of this mean that within the next 50-100 years, our soils will no longer be fertile enough for the growth of crops.
“We need to take farming back 100 years and learn from previous generations about how to work the land while still caring for it.
“There is a growing movement behind regenerative agriculture and it is important that young people are in the vanguard. The industry needs to be working more closely with schools and colleges. We need to be getting young people onto farms and show them that the way they operate has changed and that farming is not a boring job.
“Farming is anything but boring. Today, farmers need to innovate and diversify. There are aspects of science, ecology, engineering and marketing in running a successful farm. No two days are ever the same.”