Farming was instrumental during the creation of human civilisation tens of thousands of years ago. As humans started to manipulate crops, tame animals and manage our landscape we began to shape our world, environment and even create new species.
Farming started as a family business and to the most part remains that way with skills and knowledge, land and equipment being passed from generation to generation.
In Cumbria, it isn’t uncommon to meet sixth – even seventh generation – farmers whose families have managed their upland farm for hundreds of years.
While farming traditions are ancient and deep-rooted, the farming sector as a whole is fast-moving. Often at the vanguard of change, science and technology as our growing world population demands more value from land, animals and crops.
So, what does farming look like for a next generation farmer in Cumbria today? Is running the family farm even a realistic proposition?
Thankfully I think the answer is ‘yes’ but requires more ingenuity than ever before. Meeting Jimmy and Thomas Stobart recently at a farming event I was involved with, and hearing Jimmy speak, was inspiring.
These brothers really are a shining example of our next generation naturally embracing new technologies and taking a long-term view.
Hearing Jimmy talk about their farm and techno grazing infrastructure was really interesting and, as technology presses forward I was encouraged to hear younger farmers welcoming and incorporating it into their daily business practice.
This evolving technology, innovation, research and developments in the field are unarguably exciting, but it can create gaps in the necessary skills farmers need to compete.
We need to look at how we can support this fast-moving sector in terms of technology. Skills such as business management, financial literacy, IT, crop management and animal husbandry are just some areas we should be looking at for starters.
The truth is the next generation won’t be able to look at the family farm just as a farm, but as an agribusiness that more than ever requires the right people, capital and processes to run it more effectively and efficiently, for greater profitability and, in time, free cash flow and financial freedom.
Our next generation network is a space where needed conversations can be had in a peer-to-peer environment and is already showing signs of fostering change.