Participants in a programme designed to encourage new entrants into farming have commented on its successes.
An evaluation of the Scottish Government’s Starter Farm Initiative shows that it has provided opportunities to run a farm business, and valuable skills and experience to enable participants secure future tenancies and further their agricultural careers.
To date, the Farming Opportunities for New Entrants (FONE) Group, which supported the governance of the initiative, has facilitated entry to over 80 new entrants by providing 122 land opportunities across more than 7,000 hectares of land.
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon met members of the FONE Group and new entrants who are farming on Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, to hear about their journey into the sector. Ms Gougeon said:
“The enthusiasm and forward-thinking of the new entrants on the island have contributed massively to the success of the limited-duration tenancies in place at Mount Stuart. The future of agriculture and the rural economy is rooted in the need for the next generation to drive innovation and best practice, improve efficiency and contribute to the economic vitality of the sector.
“It’s vital that the voices of new entrants are heard and I am determined to create further employment opportunities in land-based sectors to promote rural development and sustainable communities.
“We will continue to work with stakeholders and the FONE Group to ensure we are taking further steps to enable a strong, dynamic and productive rural economy to create wealth and employment across Scotland.
“My thanks go to Henry Graham and the FONE Group as a whole. This small yet powerful group has made tangible progress in supporting the next generation of rural workers since its formation in 2017.”
Chair of the FONE Group Henry Graham said:
“The programme and this evaluation have given us the opportunity to reflect on both the successes and lessons to be learned, including foresight into where further focus should be placed to support new entrants into the sector.”
Evaluation of Starter Farm Initiative: https://www.gov.scot/ISBN/978-1-80525-903-9
Between 2012 and 2015 the Scottish Government in collaboration of Forestry and Land Scotland, created ten starter farm units on publicly owned land to attract and develop new talent into the industry. Formed in 2016, the Farming Opportunities for New Entrants (FONE) Group, supported the governance of the Starter Farm Initiative and separately built on this concept to identify smaller areas of publicly owned land that could be offered on longer term leases.
Further information on FONE Farming opportunities for new entrants (FONE) – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
Further information on SLMS Scottish Land Matching Service | Opportunities in Scottish Farming (slms.scot)