Dilemma of our agricultural future

The future of our farming industry - young farmers are being encouraged to stay on the land

The future of our farming industry - young farmers are being encouraged to stay on the land

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics national accounts have revealed agricultural growth surged by an extraordinary 27.6 per cent in 2016, following a record harvest in every state. Agriculture had 10 times its average contribution to the economy in the three months to December, making up 0.5 per cent of the country's 1.1 per cent growth.

It is interesting that more than a quarter of Australia’s primary producers estimate that they will transition out of agriculture within the next five years.  The dilemma for the agricultural industry is how to retain existing agricultural knowledge and experience while facilitating the entry of ‘new blood’ into agricultural enterprises.

Local Land Services helps farmers grow their knowledge through advice, information, training and networking.  Better informed decisions help farmers balance production, profit and sustainability and this helps contribute to an overall growth of local agricultural productivity but what are the options for securing the future of farming for future generations today?

There are a range of organisations are now supporting producers to proactively prepare for the next phase of their lives while ensuring their successful farm enterprises can continue to flourish and sustain future generations.

The Young Farmer Business Project is a joint initiative between NSW Department of Primary Industries, NSW Young Farmers Council and NSW Farmers Association, which aims to increase the number of young people in agriculture across NSW. As part of the initiative, an information hub is being developed to provide business support resources using digital platforms that meet the needs of our younger generation of farmers.

Entering the business of agriculture can be very challenging - requiring skills, resources and connections to be successful and the Young Farmer Business Project aims to provide the information, knowledge and networks to those interested in growing their future in farming.

With the right planning and the right networks it may be possible for retiring farmers to continue to earn from their years of hard work, while supporting young farmers and bolstering their local community.

These decisions can be stressful and the NSW Department of Primary Industries offer a Rural Resilience program that helps and supports farmers. They offer networks, information exchange and relevant initiatives designed to build personal and business resilience skills that enable people to move forward in a positive direction.

One of the key barriers to a farming career is that it is considered too expensive unless a person is able to inherit an existing business and property. There are new organisations and emerging solutions to aide the transition of land across generations, allowing farming to become a career choice for young Australians and to facilitate the entry of middle aged farmers with families – both of which can breathe new life into regional communities with ageing farmer populations.

There are the traditional succession options for retiring farmers – sell it or give it to the kids but there are alternatives that provide positive alternatives to these succession options as long as farmers are willing to be creative.

What if you sold half the farm to a new farming family who were wanting to start their own farming enterprise? What if you remained the equity owner of the farm and arrange to stay on the farm offering your knowledge to the new family? 

These options can be made a reality for any retiring farming family. There are farm match-making organisations who can find opportunities for retiring farmers to sell equity in their farm to new aspiring farmers and investors wanting to get farming.

Cultivate Farms is one such organisation - a social enterprise aiming to rejuvenate regional communities by bringing young families back to regional communities. They connect young families with investors and retiring farmers to own and operate a farm together.

The future of farming can be secured by engaging in partnerships, taking on knowledge and some innovative thinking by all those concerned – government agencies, the agricultural industry and farmers.

Local Land Services projects and partnerships play a role in offering a networking facility to bring these sectors together.  Visit the Local Land Services website www.lls.nsw.gov.au for information on events, subscribe to newsletters and links to organisations who are working on these important goals.

For more information: 

Young Farmer Business project visit www.youngfarmerbusinessproject.org.au

NSW Department of Primary Industries Rural Resilience Program www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/about-us/rural-support/rural-resilience-program

Cultivate Farms www.cultivatefarms.com/

Local Land Services www.lls.nsw.gov.au