It is a well established fact that farming is a difficult industry to break into - the cost of acquiring land and holdings to farm is one of the biggest barriers to new entrants.
To help secure the future of Hampshire and the UK’s farming industry, Hampshire County Council owns a number of ‘County Farms’ that help to give those with the relevant skills and experience a way in to the industry.
County Farm tenants are granted tenancies over council-owned land and farms, and, in this way, they are given the opportunity to build up sustainable businesses that should then enable them to compete in the open market, on a more level playing field, for land available to let, or even buy. By giving our farmers of tomorrow an opportunity they would otherwise not have, these County Farms support Hampshire’s thriving rural economy.
Over the years, our County Farms have, with the support of the County Council’s Property Services, been provided with a springboard into the industry for those who are willing to work hard. Indeed, quite often this hard work is recognised both locally and nationally - County Farmers have hit the spotlight with a variety of awards and accolades.
Rosie Salt, Rural Estates Surveyor for Hampshire County Council, explains: “One particularly noteworthy achievement recently is our tenant Will Fox being crowned Young Farmer of the Year 2018 by British Dairy at their annual Cream Awards. The awards recognise promising business people across the UK dairy industry. William and his wife Katy won the accolade for their work running a 200 cow British Friesian herd from our County Council holding, Lyde Green Farm, in Rotherwick.”
With the help of a grant from the Rural Communities Fund, a new grant scheme launched by Hampshire County Council to support Hampshire’s rural communities, Will Fox and his wife Katy have also invested in a milk vending machine, which has recently been installed close to their farm gate and is proving increasingly popular with local consumers. Katy also hopes to make and sell cheese from the farm, having already come up with an excellent halloumi product. Plus, she thoroughly enjoys hosting farm tours – from Women In Dairy groups to the Brownies who have benefited from visits this summer.
Another enterprising Tenant, Jon Barfoot from Lower Brownwich Farm, Fareham, has, with the help of his wife Kelly, successfully developed a ‘veg box’ delivery scheme known as ‘Boxxfresh’. Boxxfresh sells a selection of home-produced juices and flatbreads as well as fresh vegetables from both their farm and also neighbouring County Farms.
To take on a County Farm, would-be farmers have to show that they have a viable business plan that will keep pace with changes in the farming industry; and it’s fair to say that Hampshire’s County Farmers are an innovative group.